Jobs, Small Business and Economy
I believe that everyone wants to find value in their work. The basic value people want is to be paid fairly and paid enough to support their family. That’s why I support making every wage a living wage and paying government workers and teachers at a level that they feel is fair.. All workers should have adequate health care and paid sick leave. I have also been the primary sponsor of legislation to create a family leave insurance program so that every North Carolinian can take paid leave during the times that they need to care for those they love.
As a small-business owner, I know what it’s like to create a budget, make payroll, manage cash flow, and navigate our complicated taxation landscape. As a legislator, I have worked to maintain consistent communication with other small business owners through our local Chambers of Commerce, Farm Bureaus, and other trade associations. I have helped craft legislation to address unfair tax burdens on small business, and I have supported direct financial assistance for small businesses going through rough periods and periods of rapid growth.
Our region’s economy is driven by the connection between our amazing research universities and our large businesses in the tech, life sciences, and healthcare fields. What these big employers ask of North Carolina is that we produce a highly educated workforce and provide a great place for those people to live. If we continue to deliver on those fronts, our major employers will continue to expand and additional companies will relocate to our region.
Every North Carolinian should have access to affordable healthcare, and shouldn’t have to drive more than 30 minutes to get basic medical care.
Expansion of the Federal Medicaid program is the single biggest thing we could do to move towards universal health insurance, and it would even help those of us who are already insured by reducing our premiums by an average of 7%. It is also the single biggest thing we could do for North Carolina’s economy, as it would create more than 43,000 jobs and bring billions of our own tax dollars back home from the Federal Government to reinvest in North Carolina.
In rural areas, we need to reduce the barriers to convenient health care. That’s why I have supported legislation like the SAVE Act that would allow qualified nurses to provide basic medical care as they are trained and prepared to do, but are blocked by current regulations. I have also worked directly with medical providers at our rural community clinics to support their efforts to support rural residents while being connected to our metropolitan area hospital systems.
Action on climate has to be the centerpiece of policy efforts at every level of government. We have seen up close in North Carolina how the changing climate affects the most vulnerable among us. We have watched as Black and Brown Communities in Eastern North Carolina suffer the relentless onslaught of hurricanes, forced to pick up their lives each anew each time they settle in. We have watched as mountain communities suffer devastating floods and landslides, setting the already fragile rural economies back. We have watched as hot summer days combine with pollutants in our air and make it hard for our children to breathe. It is time to act.
I have been a relentless critic of Duke Energy as it exerts undue influence over our State’s energy policy and holds our climate goals hostage. Still criticism is not enough, we need solutions. I have pushed for legislation that makes renewable energy development easier and more affordable for consumers. For instance, I sponsored legislation that would make every school in North Carolina more energy efficient, place solar panels on every school roof, and make all school buses electric. Such investments would pay financial dividends while also reducing our climate impact.
The transportation sector actually bares the highest responsibility for climate change nationwide. In urban areas, we need to divest from our car-centric approach to transportation and land use and move towards vibrant, more dense communities connected by transit. Communities where kids can safely bike to school and office workers safely walk to their jobs will reduce our fossil fuel emissions, save money, and make our communities more healthy and happy. Rural residents have to travel to connect with jobs, health care, and other resources. So we need to invest in infrastructure like high speed charging stations and public transportation options that support reducing the carbon emissions generated by rural to urban travel.
My life’s work has been helping kids find opportunity through education. I proudly spent sixteen years working in North Carolina’s public schools, and I loved every day of it.
While working with black and brown public school students to be the first in their family to go to college, I realized that most of their impediments were baked into our educational system rather than due to any individual circumstance about those kids or their families. So I changed the focus of my career from helping individuals to improving the educational system, often called “equity work.”
In the legislature, I have focused my education advocacy on improving public schools so that they will better serve students who are most likely to struggle. I have been a fierce advocate for fully funding our schools to meet our constitutional obligation to provide every child with a sound, basic, education. And I have introduced groundbreaking legislation that would provide students in our lowest performing schools the chance to have an extended school year so that they can catch up to where they should be.
I know that educators are the most critical asset we have to improve our educational system. I have consistently argued we must pay our educators at or above the national average. I have sponsored legislation that would expand the pipeline for teachers. As a former school social worker, I have been among the most consistent voices for expanding the number of student support personnel in schools. And I have introduced legislation that would give teachers more time and pay for professional development opportunities that emphasize their ability to learn from each other.
While my career and legislative committee assignments have been focused on K-12 education, I am also committed to early childhood education and post-secondary education. I was a co-founder of the General Assembly’s bipartisan Early Childhood Caucus. And I have supported many bills to strengthen our community college system, keep UNC among the top higher education systems in the country, and to ensure that Historically Black Colleges and Universities are funded equitably.
I am also very honored to be one of Governor Cooper’s appointees to the Southern Regional Education. Board, where I work collaboratively with education leaders from across our region to improve public education outcomes.
Throughout our history, people have fought and died for the right of every eligible citizen, regardless of race, gender, or status, to vote in free and fair elections. Our approach to elections must reflect these courageous efforts by maintaining our focus on expanding voting accessibility while ensuring election security.
North Carolina is unfortunately the poster child for voter disenfranchisement. In the past decade, Republican leadership drew maps designed specifically to diminish the power of black voters. The maps termed “the largest racial gerrymander ever encountered by a federal court” were ultimately thrown out as unconstitutional. But before elections could take place to remedy the harm, Republicans moved to use their illegal power and enshrine a racist requirement for Voter ID into our constitution. The Republicans’ repeat efforts to require Voter ID have been called out by the courts as targeting black voters with “surgical precision.”
With the 2021 redistricting process, Republicans have done it again, drawing more illegal maps to give themselves partisan advantage, without care for the disenfranchisement they cause along the way.
I will continue to fight to take voting rights in the other direction. In the legislature, I have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that would ensure universal voter registration, expanded opportunities to vote by mail, and for a non-partisan redistricting process.
As we the battle over redistricting and Voter ID requirements are now before the courts, I will work to ensure our courts remain strong, and filled with justices who won’t stand idly by as Republicans attempt to entrench power through unconstitutional maneuvers.
A healthy democracy that represents all our citizens is essential for a just North Carolina.
With a shift in the U.S. Supreme Court, we are at risk of losing long-standing federal legal safeguards to protect a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. It is up to us in North Carolina to hold the line, and I won’t let women down.
Unfortunately, in North Carolina Republican politicians have been tireless in their quest to insert themselves into the deeply personal decisions women are sometimes forced to make. Politicians don’t make great doctors, and politics has no place in a private decision between a woman, her faith, her family, and her doctor.
Women should have control over their own healthcare decisions, and the legislature should be more concerned with ensuring increased access to health care rather than restricting it.
I have voted against every Republican bill put before the General Assembly that would restrict access to abortions. I will continue to fight to uphold a woman’s right to exercise her right to choose.
I will also fight Republican efforts to restrict access to birth control. Birth control is a fundamental preventive health benefit. Increased access to birth control has decreased the rate of unwanted pregnancies, while increasing infant and maternal health. Access to birth control is essential in leveling the playing field for women enabling women to fulfill an increasingly diverse range of educational, professional, social and political aspirations.
Civil Rights and Equity
There is no fight more important to me than the ongoing struggle for racial justice. I have spent my career working to ensure educational opportunity for students of color. Racism has a long legacy in North Carolina, and unfortunately many of our systems and institutions still reflect its influence. In the legislature I fight hard to end disparities in education and healthcare, to reform our criminal justice system and to combat environmental racism.
I also stand proudly with our LGBTQ citizens. I have consistently opposed Republican attempts to treat our queer brothers and sisters as “other”. I voted against HB2 and was the primary sponsor of legislation to repeal HB2. And I have been forceful in ensuring gay marriage is as easy as any other loving marriage. In the future, I will push for statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens.
I also work hard for the equal rights of women. Women deserve to be paid equally for equal work. As an economic driver of the New South and a hub of education and higher learning, North Carolina is uniquely poised to educate and employ a new generation of both male and female business leaders. I have also led the charge for paid family leave, which by ensuring all parents can take the time they need to care for loved ones, boosts female participation in the workforce and normalizes a task too often left to women.
All North Carolinians deserve to be treated equally with dignity and respect, without exception.
Universal, accessible, and affordable broadband is essential for everyone, and a particularly pressing issue in our rural areas. Without proper access to the internet, kids struggle to get a complete education, job opportunities become more limited, families lose out on affordable tele-medicine, so much opportunity is lost.
While we do expect significant investment in rural broadband over the next few years, I am focused on ensuring the rollout of new capacity is done quickly, and is done equitably. I have pursued legislation that would speed up the deployment of rural broadband, and I consistently advocate for solutions, such as incentive programs, to ensure as many new customers are served as quickly as possible.
I am also laser focused on broadband affordability. To get there we are going to need a range of different broadband providers that drive competition in the marketplace. I also support subsidy programs for families that need assistance to afford even the cheapest options for broadband. Broadband is an essential component of life now, and we need to ensure everyone has access to it and no one gets left behind.