Name as it appears on the ballot: Larry Coleman
Party affiliation: Republican
Campaign website: www.colemanforncsenate.com
Occupation & employer: Retired Military & Non-Profit Executive Director
Years lived in North Carolina: 30
1. What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of North Carolina effectively? What would you cite as your three biggest career accomplishments?
I have lived in District 22 for over 20 years and raised my family here. I’ve volunteered enough in the district to know that I want to see the issues we face locally addressed at the State level, and I want to see more resources flow back from the State to our district. I know the issues facing our district are complex and don’t have any easy fix. But I have the kind of experience, from over 20 years of military service and community leadership, that has always been nonpartisan and focused more on how to get people to cooperate to complete a mission than taking sides and protecting special interests. So, I believe I can bring a fresh perspective with proven leadership to address our district’s concerns in the State senate.
My three biggest career accomplishments have been:
- Completing Officer Candidate School and becoming an officer in the Army after six years of enlisted service.
- Having the honor of serving as the commander of a 170-Soldier unit during its successful deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- Conducting training in a number of East African nations that included United Nations peacekeeping operations, disaster preparedness and response, and combatting wildlife trafficking.
2. What do you believe to be the three most pressing issues facing the next General Assembly? What steps do you believe the state should take to address them?
Education – With 115 local school districts and 100 counties North Carolina funding for public education is substantially centralized in state government, which pays teachers and funds much of schools’ day-to-day operations. In Durham the state provides over 48% of funding to our schools. Durham Public Schools (DPS) is the third largest employer in Durham County with over 5,000 full-time employees. Employee salaries and benefits make up over 77% of DPS total expenditures. Over the past decade, benefits paid to employees has increased from nearly 29% to approximately 50% of overall compensation paid.
It is clear that there will continue to be a focus on increasing teacher pay. However, there should also be an effort within the North Carolina Legislature to address the rising costs of employee benefits through finding smarter means of providing those benefits. This benefit cost savings could be used to further increase teacher pay. There should also be an examination of North Carolina’s funding system, which is a resource-based allocation model. According to Education Commission of the States, North Carolina is one of only 10 states to use some form of resource-based allocation. By re-examining the way schools are funded from the state the General Assembly could give schools more flexibility on how they spend money at the local level.
Available & Appropriate Housing – Housing is affordable when it comprises no more than 30% of a family’s budget. Families that spend more than this on housing are considered cost-burdened. 32% of households in Durham are cost-burdened. 73% of people moving to Durham have incomes above $130,000 and the average price of a home sale in 2020 was just shy of $300,000, compared to $200,000 in 2010. Within the past year investors purchased 15% of homes in Durham, and corporate investment is concentrated in predominantly black neighborhoods. It is anticipated that the population of Durham will increase by 160,000 people by 2045. This will require that an additional 2,000 dwelling units in Durham every year.
- Create opportunities for citizens to gain life skills and job training to build wealth and ensure that individuals are being set up for success for jobs within their communities.
- Leverage the wide variety of educational institutions within Durham that can connect individuals to specific job training programs, as well as assist with affordable housing projects.
- Engage not-for-profit medical institutions to dedicate community-improvement funds to housing development.
- Facilitate single-family conversions and accessory dwelling units to increase density while keeping community design in mind.
- Focus on middle-housing solutions to avoid displacement in low-cost housing.
- Provide home purchase assistance to increase residential stability among households with low incomes and first-time owners.
Current Legislation in committee that could be beneficial to housing in Durham include SB349/HB401 and HB 232. While it still is far from reaching completion SB349/HB401 would improve housing availability and affordability while providing more ways for existing owners to capture the value of their investments. HB 232 directs an affordable housing study that would could help inform future legislation.
Criminal Justice Reform – Steps I would take and/or support are:
- Continue the work of Senate Bill 300, which established a group to study the state’s criminal laws.
- Work on criminal law recodification to streamline the state criminal code and develop a database of crimes and offenses under different statutes, common law, regulations, and ordinances. Recodification is a start to solve the problem of overcriminalization. However, work will need to be done to keep it from recurring in the future. Solutions could include formal oversight to review proposed crimes and periodically audit existing crimes.
- Rescind or restrict the power of agencies, boards, and local governments to create crimes and specify which crimes are to be enforced. Regulation that carries a criminal penalty must be explicitly approved by the general assembly.
Success would mean fewer individuals in the criminal justice system, law enforcement officers would be able to carry out their duties more effectively.
3. To what extent do you support municipalities exerting local control over issues such as regulating greenhouse gas emissions, criminal justice reforms and police oversight, and passing development-regulating ordinances?
Greenhouse gas emissions: Article 14, Section 5, Conservation of natural resources, of the North Carolina Constitution states, ””It shall be the policy of this State to conserve and protect its lands and waters for the benefit of all its citizenry, and to this end it shall be a proper function of the State of North Carolina and its political subdivisions to acquire and preserve park, recreational, and scenic areas, to control and limit the pollution of our air and water, to control excessive noise, and in every other appropriate way to preserve as a part of the common heritage of this State its forests, wetlands, estuaries, beaches, historical sites, openlands, and places of beauty.” The protection of the environment should not solely be a function of the General Assembly but rather a collaboration of state and local government. At the state level all three branches of the government share the responsibility. In addition to the state level, due to specific and local interests, the local level also bears a responsibility in environmental issues.
Criminal justice reform and police oversight: Criminal justice reforms and police oversight begin at the local level. However, at the State level, work and improvement on the recently passed Senate Bill 300 needs to continue’ Please refer to question 2, issue 3, above.
Passing development-regulating ordinances: Regulating how and where municipalities grow is clearly a function of the local government. However, the State can also provide incentives or requirements to encourage localities to adopt policies that will help expand the supply of affordable homes. Please refer to question 2, issue 2, above.
4. Do you support raising North Carolina’s minimum wage, and if so by how much? If not, what other initiatives would you take to support low-income families in North Carolina? Currently the minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 per hour, the lowest amount allowable by the Federal government. I would be in support of an increase in the minimum wage if coupled with the elimination of the franchise tax. I believe a reasonable range would be $11-12 per hour. As the Executive Director of a non-profit with a small budget, I believe any higher amount would be detrimental to small businesses.
5. With rent, property taxes, and home sale prices all rising, what, if anything, should the state legislature do to address this growing affordability crisis?
Please refer to my available & appropriate housing response to question 2, above.
6. Do you believe that the state government has an obligation to prevent the impacts of climate change? If so, please state three specific policies you support to address climate change.
Please refer to question 3, greenhouse gas question response.
7. Would you support an independent process for drawing new legislative and congressional districts?
I believe that any independent process used to draw new legislative and congressional maps would still need the approval of the General Assembly. The North Carolina Constitution makes the General Assembly responsible for redistricting and states four criteria for drawing state legislative districts. There have been a number of attempts to create a commission to conduct redistricting, both by Democrats and Republicans, that were never realized. I believe the only data that should be used when drawing districts is headcounts. Districts should be compact and consistent and districts should be drawn in an open, observable manner that is easily understood by constituents
8. Does the General Assembly have a constitutional obligation to comply with the state Supreme Court order in the Leandro case to fully fund public schools and give every child in North Carolina a sound basic education?
Article IX, Section 2 of the North Carolina Constitution states, “The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools” and “wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.” In the 1997 Leandro case the North Carolina Supreme Court declared that the state constitution affords all public-school children an “opportunity to receive a sound basic education,” a phrase not in the North Carolina Constitution. While I believe there should be a continued increase in funding for public education, it should be determined by the General Assembly and not the court systems.
9. The U.S. Supreme Court may issue a ruling this summer that guts, or even overturns, Roe v. Wade. As a state lawmaker, would you support legislation that limits or prohibits abortion in North Carolina, or punishes/criminalizes abortion providers or patients?
I believe that life begins at conception and I will make every effort to protect the unborn. I believe that the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act vetoed by Governor Cooper should be reintroduced in a future legislative session.
10. Should North Carolina expand Medicaid? Where do you stand on increasing the number of slots for the Innovations Waiver for special needs individuals?
Medicaid: Late in 2021, the NC General Assembly created the Joint Legislative Committee on Access to Healthcare and Medicaid Expansion with a purpose to consider various ways in in which access to health care and health insurance can be improved for North Carolinians. There is clearly a need to improve healthcare accessibility in North Carolina. Medicaid expansion is one of a number of ways that the gap could be closed.
Innovations Waiver: I believe the number of innovations waivers should be increased. Our family currently uses the innovations waiver to provide care for our youngest daughter. The North Carolina Department of Human Health and Services describes the waiver as a Federally approved 1915 C Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waiver (HCBS Waiver) designed to meet the needs of Individuals with Intellectual or Development Disabilities (I/DD) who prefer to get long-term care services and supports in their home or community, rather than in an institutional setting. My experience, and that of other parents of children with special needs that I know, is that it is not just a preference to receive supports in their home or community, it is the only option. With the limited number of innovations waivers, it is a difficult only choice. When we first started seeking assistance, we were placed on a wait list and if our daughter had not received care in an institutional setting, it is likely we would still be waiting. In addition to increasing the number of innovations waivers, the state should undertake an effort to increase awareness of the program and simplify the application process.
11. Do you support reforming North Carolina’s marijuana laws? Do you support full legalization? Please explain your position.
I do not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Proponents of legalizing marijuana claim it is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, which are already legal. Just because two substances that can have a negative impact on society and families are legal, that doesn’t mean we should endorse a third. I have personally seen the destruction marijuana can do to individuals and families. I do believe that it should be considered for medical research and treatment.
12. Are there any issues this questionnaire has not addressed that you would like to address?
I care deeply about NC Senate District 22. I see my particular set of skills and experiences – in the military and in the district as a volunteer – making me a unique candidate, because I am not a career politician. I’m someone who lives in your neighborhood and wants to see things get better for his family and for my neighbors. I would ask for your support and vote in May and November elections.