Recently, Representative McGrady and other candidates were given the opportunity to provide detailed answers to a series of thoughtful questions from local ABC affiliate WLOS News 13. We reprint them here below.
1. What do you feel are the biggest issues facing North Carolinians, and what will you do to address them?
I have and always will put the needs of the people I represent in Henderson County first. I believe that my experience having served on the Village Council of Flat Rock, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, and in various other leadership and volunteer roles here locally gives me not only a long-time bond to the community, but a special understanding of our area’s needs.
I think that what matters most to us here in Henderson County probably matters to most folks across the state — we want to leave North Carolina a better place for our children and our grandchildren. It certainly does to me.
That means staying the course on policies that help everyone thrive: economically, with good jobs, low taxes, and prudent spending; educationally, by continuing to provide our students and our teachers with whatever they need to succeed; and environmentally, by making sure that we remain good stewards of the earth and our state’s bountiful natural resources. And because I’m privileged to hold a leadership role in the legislature as a full Appropriations Chair, I’ve been in an influential position to address all of these priorities.
North Carolina is in a much better position fiscally speaking today — with lower tax rates for individuals and businesses, a healthy savings reserve, paid-off debt, record low unemployment — than it was before I was first elected. Sensible fiscal policy I have supported has led to more people working, fewer people in poverty, and higher incoming revenue than ever before in our state’s history.
I’ve championed our children and schools by supporting five successive pay raises for teachers, averaging 6.5% annually, and increasing overall education spending by more than $700 million this year alone. There’s more work to be done, of course, but we’ve made significant progress. I am very proud of my record on education, and I remain committed to doing even more.
For my entire time in the House, I’ve been a go-to legislator to whom environmental and conservation leaders come when they need something done or something fixed — probably one of the reasons I was endorsed over my opponent by both the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Of course, as a former national and state environmental leader, conservation issues have always been important to me. I was instrumental in creating both the DuPont State Recreational Forest and Headwaters State Forest, the state’s newest forest. As Chairman of the Environmental Review Commission, I’m in a unique position to make sure that our state’s air, water, and other natural resources are protected.
All that being said, there are dozens of other accomplishments I’m proud of and issues that are important to me personally, from juvenile justice reform and independent redistricting to insurance coverage for children with autism. Oh, and craft beer. My son told me not to forget that one.
We’ve passed an impressive amount of alcohol-related legislation since I’ve been in the legislature — particularly regarding craft beer, which has resulted in over $2 billion in positive economic impact for our state. As the Chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Committee in the House, I helped draft the language in the “Brunch Bill” allowing the option for alcohol sales at 10 a.m. on Sundays. And if folks return me to Raleigh, I’m committed breaking the state’s prohibition-era monopoly on alcohol sale and distribution.
2. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot in November — from the language to some saying they amount to “power grabs” by the GOP-controlled General Assembly. What are your thoughts on the amendments?
With all due respect, I must take issue with your characterization. I think most of the so-called “controversy” has been stirred up by partisan interest groups and some in the media. When you look at the proposed amendments, most have bipartisan support.
If you support requiring identification to vote, which 70% of people across the political spectrum do, the proposed “Voter I.D.” amendment is not very controversial.
As for the proposed “Rights of Victims of Crime” amendment, the proposed “Cap on the Income Tax Rate” amendment, and the proposed “Right to Hunt, Fish, and Harvest Wildlife” amendment, one could argue that they need not be included in the text of the state constitution, but it’s hard to make the case that they are controversial. And clearly, many people find one or all of these particular issues personally very important — especially for those who have been the victims of violent crime — and worthy of inclusion in the state constitution.
As far as the proposed “Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement” amendment goes, I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to hand over control of our elections process to whatever party happens to be in power. That’s the case now. A balanced, eight member bipartisan board might be a better way to make sure that our elections are administered in a fair manner. The same holds for ethics investigations of corrupt public officials. Right now, the system is balanced in favor of those in power.
The proposed amendment for “Selection for Judicial Vacancies” may be the one that upsets people the most; that’s because it would fundamentally change the appointments process.
Right now, if a judge dies or resigns before completing a term, the governor can appoint whomever he or she wants. In the past, as you can imagine, this has resulted in some predictable shenanigans, particularly towards the end of a governor’s term — it’s a vestige of the old patronage system for which North Carolina was infamous.
And while certainly many good judges have been appointed by our governors, reforming the appointments process with a bipartisan board to determine the best candidate based on professional qualifications (while weeding out political cronies or even unqualified hacks who happen to be friends with the governor, both of which has actually happened) doesn’t seem very controversial to me. You might not like it, but it’s really only a “power grab” when it’s your party in power. And that changes — fairly administering elections and adjudicating ethics investigations should not.
And while I don’t find the amendments particularly controversial, one should not assume that means I’m supporting all of them, because I’m not. However, I think each of them is appropriate for voter consideration.
Groups on the right are urging that voters approve all of the amendments, and groups on the left are urging voters to vote against all of them. I hope my constituents will ignore those messages and consider each of them on their own merits.
3. Would you vote to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act?
Yes. If I am re-elected, I will co-sponsor legislation next year that improves access to quality healthcare by providing an option to lower-income, working residents of North Carolina in a new health insurance product called “Carolina Cares.” It establishes a program for residents of the state who are not currently eligible for Medicaid and have been left out of the Affordable Care Act.
This new insurance product is designed for North Carolinians aged 19 to 64, whose income does not exceed 133% of the Federal poverty level and who are not entitled or enrolled in Medicare. Participants must also be employed or engaged in activities to promote employment. There are a few exceptions, including veterans in transition and for folks who are medically frail or have a financial hardship.
This plan also requires participants to pay an affordable premium and to cover co-pays — just like regular insurance coverage does. Unlike other states’ Medicaid expansion programs (or most insurance products), coverage will require a commitment to preventive care with a wellness emphasis by the insured.
Uninsured residents are more likely to delay seeing a doctor and then go to one of our state’s emergency rooms when their illness gets worse. Because many of these uninsured lack adequate resources to pay, the providers – be it the hospital or doctors – absorb the full cost of care and written off as bad debt or free care.
This cost is then passed along to insured individuals through higher premiums, often referred to as “cost shifting.” Cost shifting is a hidden tax which adds to the provider’s cost of uncollectible care then shifts that cost over to those who do have insurance coverage, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to private insurance plans.
So how will we pay for it? The program would not require the use of any existing state funds or impose any new tax increases, using a mix of premium payments and federal funds which the State can draw from to fund coverage for our uninsured population.
Since North Carolina actually saves money under the traditional Medicaid program, if this new option were implemented at no cost to North Carolina, the traditional funding formulas with our current Medicaid plan would decrease by approximately $45 million per year, according to the legislature’s non-partisan Fiscal Research Division.
By providing coverage to low-income workers, the demands for healthcare services will increase economic growth by creating new healthcare sector jobs to treat the newly enrolled beneficiaries who will be required to seek routine preventive services. This influx of healthcare services will benefit rural areas where many providers are under great stress. These services, once provided primarily in emergency rooms, would now be shifted to more appropriate levels of care.
Studies indicate that people with healthcare coverage see doctors more routinely, take their medications consistently, report better health and better financial stability, take less time away from work, and their mortality rate is lower.
I support improving access to quality healthcare for those less fortunate, and this gets us there in a financially responsible way.
4. What approach do you believe is best to prevent mass shootings?
The only guaranteed way to prevent disturbed persons from committing violent crimes is to have them institutionalized in a secure facility before they can commit the crime. And that’s a heavy lift — because not all disturbed people are violent criminals. The vast majority are not, in fact.
So there is no one answer — although hardening potential targets and rooting out probable perpetrators will certainly help.
In the case of school shootings, we need to be sure we are doing everything we can to make our school campuses more secure: although I don’t support arming teachers, I support putting well-trained armed personnel (school resource officers, or SROs) in schools, a position I share with the Henderson County Public Schools and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office.
There is also the very important mental health piece to be addressed. Again, in the case of schools, we need to do a better job of identifying and treating troubled kids who demonstrate violent tendencies or behavior. If the Parkland incident showed us anything, it’s that there were failures at almost every level and at every turn in terms of intercepting and treating the perpetrator. The tragedy in Florida wouldn’t have happened if the authorities hadn’t ignored the many troubling signs and calls for help.
This year the legislature has allocated $30 million to add hundreds of SROs and enhanced mental health programs to North Carolina’s public school system. As a senior House Appropriations chair, I am committed to increasing that amount next year.
5. Do you believe marijuana should be legal either medicinally or recreationally or both?
There is no groundswell of support in my district for legalization; in fact, I’ll bet the great majority of folks I represent would oppose it — so no, not at this time. And while I personally don’t care what adults do behind closed doors, my job is to speak first and foremost for the people of Henderson County.
6. What is an example of a policy or issue you have changed your mind about in the last 20 years?
I’ve been pretty consistent over the years in my principles and my priorities, sometimes coming at a political price — including from leadership in my own party; that’s just one of the costs of being an independent thinker. But I suspect that folks respect that, because they know where I stand on things even if they might not agree with me all the time.
One recent example of a policy on which I’ve changed my mind, however, is Medicaid expansion (see above). The reason I did not support it previously was because no one had brought forward a sensible plan that taxpayers could actually afford. That has changed now with the introduction of House Bill 662, authored by my colleagues Rep. Donnie Lambeth (R-Forsyth), a fellow House Appropriations Committee co-chair, and Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt), the only doctor serving in the legislature.
As the great playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Those who can’t change their minds can’t change anything.” Hopefully, next session, we’ll be be able to change the way healthcare to the less fortunate is delivered here in North Carolina.
7. What question do you wish someone would ask you and why?
How did my dog Stagolee get his name — it comes from a Black folk tale, and his name helped me work with homesick kids when I operated a summer camp for kids. And besides, I love telling the story.
8. What is the best piece of advice someone gave you?
To listen to my wife. Although she’s my biggest supporter, if you know Jean, you’ll also know she isn’t shy to tell me when I screw up. I considered not running again for re-election this year, but Jean told me that I needed to honor commitments to complete work on a range of issues and projects. It’s possible she just wants to get me out of the house; I don’t really know.
9. Who is your favorite musician or band?
I’m probably dating myself here, but as a child of the Sixties I enjoy listening to folk rock singers like Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Dan Fogelberg, and Gordon Lightfoot — to name just a few. Their music always succeeds in bringing me back to a simpler time.
10. Duke or Carolina or neither?
With a daughter graduating from Carolina in a few weeks, I guess Carolina is my choice, but have always enjoyed Duke basketball teams.