Name as it appears on the ballot: Cynthia Ball
Campaign website: www.CynthiaforNC.com
Phone number: 919.786.6794
Years lived in the district: 8
1. What do you think are the three biggest issues facing our state? If you are an incumbent, what have you done to address those issues, and what more would you do if given another term? If you are a challenger, what would you do differently to address those issues than the incumbent has done?
I am running for re-election to NC House District 49 because I believe we need to make significant changes in policies and in the direction we have been headed. There are many serious issues facing our state but the following three may be the most pressing. Inadequate funding of our public schools. Education is the foundation of a strong society, but we are starving our schools and making imprudent decisions to increasingly siphon funds to private (unaccountable) schools and implementing policies that put our most vulnerable students at even further risk. I introduced two pieces of legislation (H1068 and H1075), even though I believed they likely had no chance of being heard with our current leadership, but I wanted to demonstrate the kind of policies we should be making to address the great needs in our public schools. Quality affordable healthcare for all. We should expand Medicaid and create programs that provide more affordable services to our underrepresented communities and our rural areas. Threats to an independent judiciary and balance of powers. The Supermajority has consistently forced through legislation that puts more and more power in the legislative branch and undermines our independent and impartial judiciary. We must stop these threats to our democracy. My voting record demonstrates my commitment to fight for these critical components of a strong and healthy democracy.
2. It seems hardly a day goes by without news of another mass shooting. On the state level, what changes to gun laws, if any, do you support? If you do not support any changes, please explain why you think the current laws are successful.
We need to make our communities and our schools safer. Among the common-sense measures we need: universal background checks, waiting periods for gun purchase, raising the age for the purchase of weapons, and banning bump stocks and assault rifles.
3. In recent years, Duke Energy’s coal ash spilled into the Dan River and Chemours’s GenX leaked into the Cape Fear River. Do you think these companies have been held sufficiently accountable? Do you believe the state has put in place sufficient regulations to prevent these problems from occurring again? If not, what more do you propose doing?
Our leadership has not held these companies accountable. The DEQ, supported by NCGA enabling legislation, should require that all of Duke Energy’s coal ash be excavated and moved to safe dry storage away from our waters. With regard to Chemours, no company should be allowed to discharge a potentially dangerous chemical until it is proven safe. The NCGA needs to adequately fund DEQ to study these emerging contaminants, put enough staff on the ground to review permits, and monitor discharges at facilities.
4. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, at least six hog-farm lagoons were damaged and more than fifty saw discharges or were inundated with floodwaters as of this writing, according to the DEQ. More than five thousand hogs have died, and right now it’s unclear what the ultimate long-term environmental impacts will be. Since Hurricane Floyd, environmentalists have warned that, in a severe flooding event, the farms’ “anachronistic” waste-disposal techniques could pose a threat to the state’s waterways and public health, while the industry has insisted that its farms utilize best practices and are already heavily regulated. Do you believe these farms, and their lagoons, pose a risk to the environment? If so, do you believe the state has done enough to minimize that risk?
I understand that even the industry now recognizes that we need to make some changes. I believe these lagoons pose a risk to our environment and to the health of North Carolinians who live nearby. The waste-storage/disposal techniques are insufficient and should be replaced by superior technology. Since Smithfield is employing these superior technologies in other states, we should look at requiring a phase-in of them and others that are being studied to provide the same protection to the citizens of NC. Some hog farms have been moved from the flood plains and we should determine which others should be moved. The farmers who own or manage these farms should not be punished by having to pay more or lose their farms because Smithfield puts profits over a better solution. The Governor has the authority to make some changes through the permitting process and I hope that the next General Assembly will welcome the opportunity to work with him to find solutions. I intend to do so.
5. This year, Smithfield Foods—the world’s largest pork producer—has lost three verdicts in North Carolina totaling millions of dollars, after juries found that its farms’ methods of waste disposal infringed on the property rights of their neighbors. But in the last two years, the General Assembly has taken steps to make it more difficult for these neighbors to sue or to recover substantial damages, citing the threats these lawsuits pose to the well-being of family farmers. Do you believe the legislature’s actions with regard to these nuisance lawsuits are prudent? Why or why not?
These laws may be deemed unconstitutional, as they treat citizens who live near hog farms differently than citizens who live near highways, other types of polluting plants, and other nuisances. By shielding Smithfield from nuisance suits by neighbors, these laws allow the companies to continue operating procedures, which are bad for our water, air, and of course, our people.
6. It has been estimated that special sessions of the North Carolina legislature cost about $50,000 per day. Since 2016, the General Assembly has called seven of them to deal with everything from passing HB 2—the so-called bathroom bill—to passing restrictions on the governor’s powers after Roy Cooper defeated Pat McCrory to, most recently, clean up controversial constitutional amendment language so that it complied with a court order. Under what circumstances do you think it’s appropriate to hold a special session?
We should have special sessions like those we are having to respond to Hurricane Florence. The current situation in NC is an absolute crisis and we should work together with the Governor, State agencies, the Federal disaster relief programs, and county/school leaders to develop and fund plans to address the most critical needs first. We will not be done addressing this crisis in the special sessions of October 2018. We will continue to receive more information and develop and fund plans to put people back in their homes, communities, schools and businesses as soon as we can. There will be tough decisions to make so we need a deliberate approach that isn’t inhibited by political posturing.
7. What are your thoughts on the six proposed constitutional amendments before voters this November? Please explain which you support and which you don’t support and why. What do you think about the process behind these amendments—what critics have described as a limited public debate, for example, as well as the elimination of amendment numbers and ballot summaries, and the lack of so-called implementing legislation, which could be passed in another special session after the November vote?
The process of bringing these amendments to the floor for votes without sufficient vetting, consideration by stakeholders, and notification of the public is a good example of the lack of transparency in our government that threatens our democracy. As we consider the full blown potential impact of these amendments, it is clear that they should not be on the ballot. Former Governors and Supreme Court Justices from both parties have come out in opposition to two of the amendments, even after we came back for a special session to fix them after court rulings. Having the current legislature come back in late November to complete the “blank check” with enabling legislation for any amendments that pass would not reflect the will of the people who have just elected their (possibly new) representatives in the November election. We should have considered any changes that were proposed via these amendments through a thoughtful legislative process that includes careful committee vetting and development of legislative statutes to be voted on, not through a politically driven initiative to put deceptive amendments on the ballot.
8. In May, thousands of teachers from all over the state marched on the legislature to demand better pay, more resources for students, and more respect. Do you think North Carolina’s schools are being adequately funded? If not, what taxes would you be willing to raise—or what services would you be willing to cut—to fund them better?
We are starving our public schools, falling far short of the funds needed to provide the strong public education system that was and still could be among the best in our country. We need to raise teacher pay, principal pay, and per pupil funding to at least the national average, and provide more nurses, mental health professionals, and other staff to handle the overwhelming need for more attention to the needs of our children. As the Governor proposed, we should have frozen the tax cuts scheduled to come online in 2019 for the highest income earners and large corporations, and we should end the escalation of providing public tax dollar funding for vouchers and education savings accounts for private schools.
9. Currently, twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal minimum. North Carolina is not among them. Do you believe North Carolina should raise its minimum wage?
Many working families, especially single parent families, are having to work two or three jobs at very low wages to live paycheck to paycheck. Yes, we should provide a living wage to our families so they can take care of basic needs and contribute to a thriving economy.
10. Under current law, toward the end of 2020, municipalities will gain the authority to pass nondiscrimination and living wage ordinances—unless the General Assembly intervenes. Since the winner of your race will be in office at that time, do you believe local governments in North Carolina should be allowed to make these decisions for themselves?
I support a statewide non-discrimination ordinance and would vote to pass one.
11. Over the last couple of years in Wake County, county commissioners and school board members have battled over local school funding. Recently, some commissioners have made moves to petition the legislature to allow for a pilot program in which the Board of Commissioners turns over school-taxing authority to the Board of Education, as is the arrangement in most states. In general, do you believe the state’s elected school boards should have the responsibility to raise taxes for the schools they oversee? Why or why not?
The funding of NC schools is different than in many states to which we should be compared. We are not funding our public schools to the level that we should be, and therefore more and more needs are being pushed down to the local school districts like Wake County. NC counties are supposed to be responsible for funding capital needs, not basic schools supplies and adequate teacher pay and staffing needs, as they are now being asked to do. In recent years, I understand that some 30% of the budget requests from Wake County Schools have been for operating needs, much of which should have been funded in a more robust state public education budget. Also, legislation passed in the 2017-18 session can further push down some responsibility for funding our schools by allowing municipalities to use their taxation authority for educational purposes. This conflict in Wake County is caused by the crisis of public school funding from the State, not by virtue of who has taxation authority.
12. Since Governor Cooper’s election, the legislature has taken a number of steps to assume powers that were previously the executive’s domain, including overhauling the State Board of Elections. Do you believe these decisions were merely power grabs, as Democrats have alleged, or that they were made in the interests of public policy?
These are attempts to weaken the power of our Executive Branch and give that power to the Legislature. These steps taken at the special session at the end of 2016 and in the 2017-18 session seriously threaten our balance of powers among the three independent branches of government, the basis for our democracy, as intended by our Constitution.
13. Over the last year, the state has frequently found itself in court over its legislative and congressional districts, which courts have ruled to be unconstitutional racial and partisan gerrymanders. Given this, do you believe the state legislature of that last several years has acted as a legitimate body? If not, what do you propose as a solution? If yes, please tell us why.
There is an inherent conflict of interest when the General Assembly sets its own districts, no matter the Party in power that pushes them through. These redistricting processes over the last 30 years have repeatedly been struck down by federal and state courts as unconstitutional gerrymanders and Voting Rights Act violations. The answer is to create a nonpartisan redistricting Commission in charge of this process, for the General Assembly and the Congressional districts, by constitutional amendment and restore confidence in our legislative bodies. Voters should choose their representatives in districts that provide a more even playing field for candidates who seek their votes. The current gerrymandered districts create a legislature made up of many representatives who have little or no incentive to find common ground during the legislative process. We need a balanced legislature.
14. Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.
When the NC Promise program for reduced tuition ($500/semester) at three of NC’s public universities was proposed and implemented, like many others I feared that this would de-value the reputations of the institutions. But, after discussing the issue with others and reviewing some early analyses, it appears that the program may be working at some levels. I am very concerned about the exploding costs of college and the resulting college debt these young people and their families are left with, so I welcome a program that may be a positive step. However, we must continue to review the program and consider other options to reduce costs of higher education. Also, I am concerned about whether the NCGA will be ready to continue to fund the reduced tuition program (at least $51 million to backfill the loss of tuition this year) without making these institutions cut some programs or force budget cuts in other universities in our system.
15. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.
I am opposed to the rapid acceleration of funding for private school vouchers and ESA’s. We are starving our public schools with inadequate budgets, including voucher and ESA investments for private schools that have little or no accountability and are not required to provide the curricula or certified teachers that ensure the level of education standards that all NC children deserve.