New faces at the legislature: Q&A with State Sen. Sarah Crawford

Editor’s note: Policy Watch sent a questionnaire to all new state lawmakers about their plans for their first legislative session. Their unedited responses will be published as the questionnaires come in. First, up State Sen. Sarah Crawford, a Democrat representing Franklin and parts of Wake counties.

Name: Sarah Crawford

District: Senate District 18

Occupation: CEO, Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities

Lives in: Raleigh

Previous elected offices? N/A

Contact information: [email protected]
919-733-5850
300 N. Salisbury St, Raleigh, NC 27603

What do you think will be the biggest issue at the legislature this year?

There are many challenges that the legislature will be facing this year. One of the biggest issues will be continuing to navigate the public health challenges related to COVID-19, equitable distribution of the vaccine, and support for individuals and businesses that have been impacted economically by the pandemic.

This is also a redistricting year, and we will be working to ensure a fair process with fair maps and representation heading into 2022.   

What’s a specific campaign promise that you’d like to deliver on?

Even before COVID-19, there were hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without necessary healthcare coverage. I have been a champion for Medicaid expansion; however, with the make-up of the legislature, it remains to be seen what might be able to be accomplished on Medicaid expansion specifically. Regardless, it is necessary to find a bipartisan solution to secure adequate healthcare coverage to North Carolinians that have an even greater need for it today.

I am also committed to supporting public education from preschool to higher education, specifically focusing on our community colleges and ensuring North Carolinians have affordable opportunities to obtain higher education by minimizing barriers to degree and certificate attainment.

Do you anticipate another round of state COVID relief funding? If so, what should the amount be?

In addition to North Carolina’s allocation of the federal stimulus package that was passed at the end of 2020, I do anticipate North Carolina will consider additional state COVID relief funding and am working closely with colleagues on this.

What groups should be prioritized for relief funding?

We have to do everything we can to support North Carolinians who have been hardest hit during this pandemic. We know that many businesses and educational institutions have additional COVID-related expenses and several organizations and businesses have also experience loss of income due to COVID. We have to ensure that we invest in high-speed internet access, which was an issue prior to the pandemic and has had a light shown on the inequity of broadband access across the state.

The pandemic has revealed the weaknesses in support systems for people in need. This includes social services, health care, rural broadband, unemployment benefits, and more. What needs fixed most urgently and how — not just during a pandemic, but permanently?

All of these services are tied to each other. First and foremost, it’s important that each North Carolinian has the healthcare coverage available to be able to receive quality care. It’s time we stop partisan politics and expand Medicaid, which would bring access to health care to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.

In regard to broadband, some people have the luxury of working from home; however, even before the pandemic, the internet is a tool most of us use every day not just to connect with one another but to pay our bills, work, and now, it’s used for students to receive an education. Broadband is a critical service and should be treated like other utilities such as electricity or phone service.

And finally, our social services and unemployment benefits have been providing necessary and critical support to North Carolinians during this difficult time. We must continue making investments in these services, expand unemployment to levels before Republicans gutted unemployment in the last decade.

Do you support Medicaid expansion? Why or why not?

I do support Medicaid expansion. The Republican-led legislature has repeatedly refused billions of dollars to extend healthcare coverage to more than 500,000 North Carolinians through Medicaid expansion. This has cost the state $6 billion and countless jobs.The need for Medicaid expansion has only grown during the pandemic. From my experience at Tammy Lynn Center, I have seen firsthand the important role that this needed coverage plays in providing families the care they need and deserve.

Is the state’s funding for public education enough? Why or Why not? If you believe funding is insufficient, what budgetary amount would you recommend and how should the money be used?

North Carolina has a constitutional responsibility to provide a sound education for every child in the state.  We know that North Carolina’s public schools are not adequately funded.  The WestEd Report’s Action Plan for North Carolina details recommendations for meeting our responsibility to provide a sound, basic education for all, which will require additional funding and a more equitable distribution of resources to meet the needs of student populations. Additionally, with the pandemic, teachers and other school personnel are frontline, essential workers and need to be paid as the professionals that they are.

What can the legislature do to help students recover/catch up from learning loss during the pandemic?

Not knowing when we may be able to return to the classroom safely, we need to further invest in the equitable distribution of remote learning devices as well as increased access to broadband. The pandemic has served to highlight areas in which we have educational disparities. Students of color are more likely to be learning online and are less likely to have access to devices or consistent internet.In addition to investing in remote learning technologies now, we must also look ahead at the equitable distribution of resources so that those who are likely to have experienced a greater loss of learning are able to recover more quickly.

DEQ’s budget and staffing has been deeply cut over the past 10 years, which has affected environmental protection, particularly in terms of inspections and enforcement. How should this be remedied?

DEQ must be adequately staffed and funded to respond to requests from the regulated community, and to ensure that polluters are held accountable for violating environmental laws. 

There has been no meaningful legislation passed to address the widespread PFAS, including GenX, contamination of drinking water. What legislation would you support to address the contamination? (This could include clean ups, source control and stiffer penalties.)

I support strong water quality laws.Included in that, it should be noted that local governments are also important partners in environmental protection, able to craft protections that are responsive to the needs of their own geography and communities.Yet, in recent years, the state has severely limited the capacity of local governments to adopt restrictions that are more stringent than state law, including measures designed to protect drinking water from fracking. Additionally, we need to repeal the Hardison Amendments that prevent the state from passing laws that are more stringent than the federal government’s.

Communities of color are particularly hard-hit not only by COVID-19 but by environmental degradation and pollution. What legislation would you sponsor and/or support to address the racial, ethnic and income disparities in environmental protection? 

Governor Cooper along with DEQ Secretary Michael Regan have formed the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board to ensure the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.  This is important step in the right direction ad it will be critical for the legislature to heed the legislative recommendations of the board and ensure adequate and equitable distribution of funds to support communities of color.

“Without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury” — excerpts from President Joe Biden’s inaugural speech

President Biden speaks at an event in Jackson, Miss. He was inaugurated today as the 46th president. (Photo: Whitehouse.gov)

Below are excerpts from President Joe Biden’s inaugural address, following his swearing-in as the nation’s 46th president:

We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain. Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.

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We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs. We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome this deadly virus. We can reward work, rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice. We can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.

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We can see each other, not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.

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And so today, at this time, in this place, let us start afresh. All of us. Let us listen to one another. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another. Politics need not be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured. 

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Here we stand, looking out to the great mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream. Here we stand where, 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change!

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And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy and to drive us from this sacred ground. That did not happen. It will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. Not ever.

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We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.

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My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other. We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.

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Now we must step up, all of us. It is a time for boldness, for there is much to do. And this is certain. I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. 

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Before God and all of you I give you my word. I will always level with you. I will defend the Constitution.I will defend our democracy. I will defend America.

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So, with purpose and resolve, we turn to the tasks of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America.

Cooper: Help is on the way. But first we have to dig deep

By Gov. Roy Cooper

When I announced North Carolina had its first known COVID case on March 3rd, most of us didn’t expect to be living like this in December. Instead of preparing for beloved holiday traditions, we’re making virtual gathering plans and mourning the loss of more than 290,000 Americans from COVID-19.

As tough as this is, especially at the holidays, the sacrifices we’re making now will ensure that our loved ones can gather again at next year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas tables.

Our COVID-19 numbers are dire, and we need North Carolinians to take this virus seriously. A month ago, daily case counts above 3,000 were troubling. Recently, we’ve had several days with more than 6,000 new daily cases. Hospitals and health care workers are feeling the strain. More than 80% of North Carolina counties have been designated as red or orange, meaning their community spread is way too high.

Until vaccines are widely available, we have a few tools that we know can keep people safe while also boosting our economy — wearing our masks, staying socially distant and keeping any gatherings small and outdoors, or better yet, online.

We have put in place a new, modified Stay at Home Order that requires people to be home between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am. This builds on strong safety protocols like the mask requirement and capacity limits we already have in place, and we will continue watching our trends to see if more is needed.

We don’t want to implement tighter restrictions. Too many small businesses and families are struggling to make ends meet as it is. They need significantly more financial support from the federal government, and I’ve repeatedly urged Congress and the President to pass a stimulus package that helps families and businesses before 2020 ends.

But our top priority will always be saving lives. We’ll do what’s necessary to protect North Carolinians and make sure anyone who needs a hospital or ICU bed gets one, whether it’s to treat COVID or a heart attack.

Advances in vaccine technology and concentrated efforts by our scientists have given us hope that new vaccines will get us to the other side of this pandemic.

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has been working hard for months to develop a vaccine distribution plan so we can hit the ground running once vaccines arrive. Quantities will be limited at first, but trusted hospitals and health care providers will be ready to vaccinate priority populations — those who are at-risk of exposure like health care workers and North Carolinians at risk of severe illness.

I have confidence in this process and plan to roll up my sleeve when it’s my turn to get the vaccine.

But for now, we have to work together and tap into the resiliency that defines our state. Whether it’s helping our neighbors rebuild after a hurricane or coming together to support our loved ones who are most vulnerable to this virus, North Carolinians are best at looking out for each other when times are tough.

That spirit is still in us, no matter how tired or frustrated we are. Dig deep and don’t let weariness win. Together we will beat this thing.

This essay and image appeared originally on Cooper’s Medium page.

Read all our Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidate Q&A’s here

As part of our ongoing effort to inform North Carolinians about the state judiciary, Policy Watch is publishing a series of Q&A’s with the candidates seeking statewide judicial office this fall. Each of the 16 candidates (six who are contesting three Supreme Court seats and 10  who are contesting five seats on the Court of Appeals) was asked the same seven questions by former PW Courts, Law and Democracy Reporter Melissa Boughton. Candidates were not given instructions about the length of their responses, which have been edited only for grammar.

Regrettably, unlike in 2018 when all candidates responded to our inquiries, some did not provide answers this year. To help inform voters in these cases, we provide links to the unresponsive candidate’s website as well as available information about any public debates in which both candidates for the race in question have participated, or are expected to participate.

Incumbent Cheri Beasley, challenger Paul Newby vie for top NC Supreme Court seat

 

 

 

Incumbent Mark Davis, challenger Tamara Barringer vie for NC Supreme Court seat

 

 

 

Candidates Lucy Inman, Phil Berger, Jr. vie for NC Supreme Court seat

 

 

 

Candidates Tricia Shields and April Wood seek open Court of Appeals seat

 

 

 

Candidates Lora Cubbage and Fred Gore seek open Court of Appeals seat

 

 

 

Incumbent Reuben Young, challenger Jeff Carpenter vie for Court of Appeals seat

 

 

 

Incumbent Chris Brook, challenger Jefferson Griffin vie for Court of Appeals seat

 

 

 

Incumbent Chris Dillon, challenger Gray Styers vie for Court of Appeals seat

The latest on Trump’s positive COVID test; Biden tests negative

Trump in ‘good spirits’ after testing positive for COVID-19

By Laura Olson, Jane Norman and Ariana Figueroa

(This story has been updated)

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump tweeted early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19, throwing the presidential campaign into a new uproar.

“We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Friday morning that the president is experiencing mild symptoms, but is in “good spirits” and “very energetic.”

“We have a president who not only is on the job, will remain on the job,” said Meadows, who spoke without a mask, saying he tested negative. “I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.”

Late Thursday, Bloomberg News had reported that Hope Hicks, a close aide to Trump, had tested positive for the virus. Hicks had traveled to and from the presidential debate in Cleveland on Air Force One with Trump and also traveled to Minnesota with him, Bloomberg said.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of wearing a face mask and other safety precautions, contradicting top health officials in his administration, and is rarely seen wearing one as he presides over large rallies packed with maskless attendees.

At Tuesday’s debate, Trump said he wears one when he “needs to,” and derided Biden for routinely wearing a face covering. He has insisted that his approach is fine because those close to him are tested every day.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who shared the debate stage with Trump on Tuesday, posted on Twitter Friday that he and his wife, Jill, tested negative for the virus. “Thank you to everyone for your messages of concern,” he said. “I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance and wash your hands.”

In addition, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the Bidens’ physician, issued a statement through the campaign. “Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” he said.

Earlier Biden wished the president and first lady a swift recovery.

Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tweeted that Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative for the virus on Friday morning.

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, tweeted Friday that he, too, has tested positive for COVID-19. Lee had met on Tuesday with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and posted a photo on Twitter showing that meeting, in which neither of them were wearing masks.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who shared a debate stage with Trump on Tuesday, posted on Twitter Friday morning, wishing the president a swift recovery.

“Jill and I send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery,” Biden tweeted. “We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family.” Read more