NEW HANOVER COUNTY — North Carolina Representative Holly Grange is running for re-election to represent District 20, which covers parts of northern Wilmington, New Hanover County, as well as Figure Eight Island.
Grange, a Republican, was appointed in August of 2016 to fill the seat vacated by Rick Catlin. She defeated fellow Republican Tammy Covil in a primary before running unopposed to take the seat in Nov. 2016.
Grange is running against Democrat Leslie Cohen.
Below are Grange’s answers to Port City Daily’s questions.
How has your previous career experience shaped your view of state politics and what you’d like to accomplish in Raleigh?
As a West Point graduate, Army Engineer Officer, Military Spouse, Military Mom, Attorney, Real Estate Broker, and a member of Local and State non-profit boards, I have had the privilege to experience the best this state and country has to offer in service to its fellow citizens. My experience as an officer in the United States Army has helped me focus on finding solutions to problems rather than just pointing fingers.
My experience working as a board member in organizations that provide important support and services to our diverse population has helped me discover the needs in our community. My experience as an attorney has given me the understanding of how laws should be drafted to protect and serve our state, its people, and its resources while minimizing unintentional consequences.
What can the General Assembly do better to help Wilmington New Hanover County? What state legislation do you personally think will benefit the region?
It is important that our delegation work with local elected officials to determine priorities identified by those same local elected officials. Legislation that benefits our region will also benefit the State as well. Every dollar that goes to education, school safety, economic development, monitoring and cleaning up our environment benefits our area.
What’s your opinion on the rail-realignment project in Wilmington and the surrounding areas? Is state-level investment warranted?
Most issues regarding transportation begin with local requests and priorities. Rail-realignment in Wilmington and at our Port is an expensive ticket item that must be carefully considered. All stakeholders need to be brought to the table. Additionally, Public Private Partnerships should be considered to increase buy-in by local businesses and employers to minimize cost to state taxpayers.
It’s a tense political atmosphere in Raleigh. What’s one specific bi-partisan issue you feel you could and would work on?
I introduced legislation last year that would enable those convicted of a crime and have served their sentences to be able to apply for certain jobs in State government without having to initially disclose their criminal history on the application. These hiring practices are known as “ban the box.” Applicants would be given the opportunity to explain their circumstances later in the hiring process. This should not be a partisan issue and would help reduce unemployment for those that wish to be part of the workforce and productive members of our community. Most importantly, it would reduce recidivism by those who have a criminal record who only want to earn a living and support their families.
Do you feel like water-quality issues in the region have been handled acceptably so far? If not, what steps would you take?
The General Assembly needs to restore the public’s trust in monitoring our drinking water. It is a complicated issue and one that calls for multiple points of attack. The bill introduced by Senator Lee and myself that was incorporated into the short session budget adjustment did just that. We put scientists from our leading universities in charge of monitoring and locating contaminants; we put the DEQ in charge of enforcing the laws. We put together searchable databases for the first time in NC. We gave the Governor the authority to shut down polluters. This approach has been recognized as leading legislation to clean up waters nationwide. It is a mischaracterization that we have been weakening the laws related to our drinking water.
What role, if any, do you see for the state in beach renourishment?
Tourism is one of the top revenue generators for our region because of our beaches. Beach re-nourishment is a big part of the viability of our beaches. The State needs to continue to be a partner with local and federal governments regarding beach re-nourishment programs. In fact, our beaches that have had recent re-nourishment suffered less catastrophic damage from Hurricane Florence.
North Carolina’s General Assembly banned Medicaid expansion in 2013. Do you think that was a good idea? Why or why not?
In 2013 North Carolina was over $2 billion in debt to the federal government. Our Medicaid system in North Carolina was broken. The expansion of Medicaid would have continued to drain the State treasury to the detriment of many other programs that have helped NC become an economic engine again. Currently in North Carolina, 25% of physicians are not accepting new Medicaid patients. Expanding Medicaid rolls with able-bodied, childless adults will strain access to those who need it most: those at-risk, low income parents, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the disabled.
Do you think the shift to the current grant system hurt the film industry? What can Raleigh do to help reinvigorate Wilmington’s film scene?
The film grant program is slowly bringing film back to Wilmington. The fact that the grants are now recurring has given film makers the confidence to consider our area again. I would like to increase the annual amounts again and get it back up to over the $50-million level. I like the fact the grants encourage production that benefits our local film crews with long-term projects with most of the money staying in our local economy.
Is school safety a state issue? If so, what state-level measures would help address the risk of school shootings.
School safety is a concern for all of us. School safety is a multi-faceted issue that includes physical security of schools, law enforcement and mental health issues. As a member of the House Select Committee on School Safety, we have heard from experts, School Resource Officers (SRO’s), and Local Education Agencies (LEA’s), which resulted in a $35 million appropriation in our short session budget adjustment to address the concerns raised. Primarily, block grants to Local Education Agencies to address their needs was the result. This allows LEA’s to apply the dollars where it is most needed. State mandates are limited to issues that are faced by all LEA’s such as training for SRO’s and the implementation of a phone app that allows for anonymous reporting of threats.
Is education adequately funded at the state level? Are their changes you’d make to the way funding is currently delivered to schools?
We have made great strides in public education funding, especially with teacher pay. To say otherwise is just not looking at the history of teacher salaries in NC. We should reward our best teachers and make education a more attractive career. That being said, there is still work to be done. The General Assembly is currently working on ways to modernize how we fund education taking into account our diverse population and the particular needs of our rural and urban areas.
Is North Carolina economically competitive enough? If not, what can Raleigh do to change that?
North Carolina is economically competitive again thanks to the Republican led legislature that has reduced taxes on individuals and businesses and has reduced unnecessary regulatory burdens. We are attracting major industries that are environmentally friendly and sought after by other states. That being said, there is a need for a qualified workforce in many industries. As a result, workforce development programs should be developed to encourage North Carolinians to be prepared for tomorrow’s opportunities and close the skills gap.