Editor’s note: N.C. Policy Watch is chatting with some of the newest members of the N.C. General Assembly to offer a bit more insight on who they are and what they plan on doing this session in Raleigh. The 2017 session of the legislature will resume Wednesday, January 25.
N.C. Rep. Joe John (D-Wake), District 40
Occupation: Legal Consultant, Arbitrator, Mediator.
Lives in: Raleigh.
Family: Wife Evelyn; Three adult children—Daughter Steffi Briley & son-in-law Andrew, grandchild Lessie Ann; Son Andy; Son Joe & daughter-in-law Julie, grandchildren Aden, Remy, Ella, & Dagney.
Campaign Website: www.joejohnnchouse.com.
Hobbies: Time with grandchildren; reading; collecting baseball cards.
Previous Elected Offices: NC Court of Appeals Judge; Superior Court Judge; District Court Judge.
Why did you run for office? After years of enforcing laws passed by the General Assembly as a North Carolina Judge and implementing laws as a State agency executive, I saw an opportunity to continue to serve and to bring my previous experience to bear upon the process of enacting laws. With particular reference to NC House District 40, I felt a more independent, open-minded approach to the legislative process was in order.
What do you think will be the biggest issue at the Legislature this year? Shortly after the election, I received a Tweet which read, “Please heal our State.” This is both a challenge and responsibility of equally immense proportions. District 40 and North Carolina are nearly evenly divided. All of us involved in the governing process must represent not only those who voted for us, but those who did not as well as those who simply failed to vote, We must come together for the benefit of all, and follow the directive of President John F. Kennedy who famously said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but rather let us seek the right answer.”
What is one campaign promise you’d like to deliver on? During the campaign, I consistently and repeatedly expressed support for the establishment of a truly independent, impartial, non-partisan Redistricting Commission to draw North Carolina’s Congressional and Legislative Districts. The drafting last year of model North Carolina Congressional Districts by a group of retired Democratic and Republican NC Supreme Court Justices under the auspices of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy demonstrated that this can be done where there is the will and the talent to do so. In Districts drawn by an independent Commission, voters would be able to select their representatives instead of the present system whereby legislators seemingly select their voters. I believe passage of legislation creating such a Commission and the subsequent establishment of fairly drawn districts would work to resolve many of the divisive issues facing North Carolina.
Do you support full repeal of House Bill 2. Why or why not? Yes. As has been abundantly clear since the secretive drafting and hasty passage of this discriminatory law, no benefit has accrued to North Carolina from HB 2. Instead, North Carolina’s reputation as a forward-thinking, moderate state has been smeared and the financial cost has been immense. Shortly after the bill’s passage, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce reported that HB 2 had caused North Carolina to be “represented negatively in more than 5,300 media outlets across the United States with nearly 8 billion impressions.” North Carolina has a lot going for it, including strong business and government leaders who are working to create jobs. Without the impediment of a law that has embarrassed our State and deprived its economy of millions of dollars, I am confident these leaders can succeed in again establishing North Carolina as a top destination to live and to do business.
How do you feel about the minimum wage in North Carolina ($7.25 an hour)? Should it be raised or kept the same? Even a casual study suggests that one size does not fit all among North Carolina’s disparate 100 counties. With the federal minimum wage as a base, I would favor reconsidering the current prohibition against allowing local municipalities to set a minimum wage within their jurisdictions.
Is the State’s funding for public education enough? North Carolina’s extremely low national rankings in categories such as per pupil spending suggest that our funding of primary and secondary public education needs a hard look. We must also guard against deterioration of our world-class university system and our strong community colleges, especially in light of recent studies which indicate that North Carolina’s emerging job market will require post-high school training and skills.
What changes do you think need to be made in the public education system? At the leadership of two State agencies, I have found that the individuals who often have the most creative and appropriate ideas on how to improve operations are those employees actually doing the job. Teaching professionals are best positioned on a day-to-day basis to know the problems in our State’s educational system and to provide advice as to how those problems may be resolved. I plan to consult regularly with teaching professionals in District 40 schools.
What leader do you look up to the most? Why? President John Kennedy was the first leader I followed on an ongoing basis and, like most Americans at the time, I was deeply affected by his assassination and the subsequent assassinations of Martin Luther King and President Kennedy’s brother, Robert. For me, President Kennedy represented optimism and confidence in the future, seeking the best in individuals and for his country, and resolution in the face of crisis. Although his image has been tainted over the years to some degree, I remember him as I saw him then.
Pet peeve: Those who are unable (or unwilling) to disagree without being disagreeable.