Friday, September 30, 2022

2022 Election: John Hinnant vies for NC House District 18 seat

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. ⁠— Republican candidate John Hinnant will face off against incumbent Deb Butler (D) in New Hanover County’s District 18 race for the N.C. House of Representatives.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate appearing on ballots in the tri-county region, even those unopposed, ahead of the Nov. 8, 2022 election.

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to the Cape Fear: PFAS, women’s rights, affordable healthcare and more.

Hinnant’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full and the candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. Responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

The paywall is dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots will be available Sept. 9 and have a Nov. 1 deadline.
  • Registration to vote will open until Oct. 14; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration only will be available during one-stop early voting. 
  • Early voting begins Oct. 20 and remains open through Nov. 5 (3:30 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 8, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Locations to vote early in New Hanover County include CFCC Health Sciences and Learning Center (415 2nd. St.), Carolina Beach Municipal Building (1121 Lake Park Blvd.), CFCC North Campus (4500 Blue Clay Rd.), Northeast Library/Board of Elections (1241-A Military Cutoff Rd.), and the Senior Center (2222 S. College Rd.).

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on the voter registration card.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

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Port City Daily (PCD): Name three projects you would advocate for funding and tell us why.

John Hinnant (JH): Generally speaking, given inflation, the state and federal government should limit any non-essential spending. That said, the General Assembly approved a $313,000,000 Stormwater Mitigation Fund for local communities.

Within the 18th District, there is at least two subdivisions — Northchase and The Reserve at West Bay — that suffered tremendous flooding in Hurricane Florence. That flooding was a result of changes to the watershed those ponds flow to. For example, the watershed serving Northchase was converted from a ditch to two 24” culverts under I-140 after the roadway was built. Similarly, the Reserve at West Bay neighborhood was impacted by the Military Cutoff Extension project.

This funding was approved in the 2020 budget and the fund is allocated. We need the New Hanover County Stormwater Authority to develop a plan and budget, then I would advocate for funding to support these neighborhoods.

Similarly, the state’s 2022 spending plan that was just approved (voted against by my opponent) included School Safety Improvement Grants for local school boards. I would advocate for some of those dedicated funds to come to New Hanover County.

My daughter was within a couple hundred feet of the shooting at New Hanover High School. Like many other Wildcat parents, I take my opponent’s votes against this grant program personally. In addition, she voted against additional school resource officer funding — clearly our children’s safety is not her concern.

Note: This is not new spending, it is already budgeted and simply needs to be requested and coordinated with local officials.

PCD: What are the top issues in our K-12 schools right now and how would you work to address it?

JH: I am a supporter of parents having a choice (School Choice) as to where their kids attend school, particularly the elementary school level. Statistics and experts agree, if a child does not achieve the necessary benchmarks by the end of 3rd grade, their chances of success diminish significantly. Families that are stuck in areas of failing schools often get stuck in generational poverty because of this issue.

Giving parents a choice, and funding schools on a per-pupil basis will greatly improve our K-12 schools performance. I am also in favor increasing the number of charter schools. 

We also need to renew our commitment to education as the priority of our economic development strategy. Dropout rates, graduation rates and educational attainment are metrics measured by companies considering North Carolina or our community for an expansion or location. Skills for today’s economy is important but also tomorrow’s economy. Obviously, it’s important and not being treated as so.

PCD: What would you like to see happen at a state level to help combat inflation and its ramifications — rising rents, groceries, utilities, prescription drugs, gas — on working families?

JH: As previously mentioned, any non-essential spending needs to be cut or eliminated. K-12 education would be considered essential. We need to do whatever it takes to lessen the tax burden on citizens.

The General Assembly should also develop a plan to lower the gas tax and revisit the policy every year to measure impacts on road funding and inflation for the average North Carolinian.

PCD: What are the main priorities to address infrastructure needs in North Carolina?

JH: Getting across the Cape Fear River is increasingly becoming a critical infrastructure project our state should be paying attention to. To successfully fund a replacement of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, we need to better communicate the economic impact to the region. If that bridge is not in service, it will impact the ability of North Carolina’s farmers, businesses, and industry to be able to ship and receive goods through the NC Port in Wilmington.

Bridges and roads are the backbone of our economy, while small businesses are the heartbeat. All are impacted by the ability to cross the river. 

PCD: How would you propose all North Carolinians have access to affordable healthcare? 

JH: By Election Day (or shortly thereafter), Medicaid Expansion in NC will likely be on the governor’s desk. That should address access for the working poor. However, if North Carolinians can’t afford health insurance, that is an issue for the United States Congress to take up within the Affordable Care Act.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell has been addressing problems within the Healthcare Industry and has some solutions that need further discussion in the General Assembly. I feel like the Certificate of Need (“CON”) will likely be up for reform in 2023, and that may encourage more competition.

As it stands now, I think the two issues (Medicaid and CON reform) will have to be handled separately. 

PCD: Where do you stand on women’s reproductive health rights and would you support legislation to further restrict abortions in North Carolina?

JH: Abortion has always been a challenging issue and highly charged. I’m not ashamed to say my opinion has wavered over the years, especially now that I am a father. I believe a reasonable compromise would be to restrict abortions after the 1st trimester with exceptions for rape, incest and if the life of the mother is at risk.

PCD: Are there any actions you support to make North Carolina a more equitable state and provide opportunities to historically marginalized populations?

JH: Significant investments in Title 1 schools and improved academic accountability. If we can improve the schools servicing these populations, we can make a significant improvement in just 15 years.

These types of investments will include better teacher pay, teacher assistant funding and higher pay, and additional support staff to prevent kids falling through the cracks.

It would also help to invest in nonprofits that can provide job training and skills development.

PCD: Coming out of 2021, wherein NC garnered over $400 million from film projects, should North Carolina take steps to strengthen the industry, such as improving grants?

JH: My opponent voted against extending film grants. It is a good sign that film is coming back.

Back in the 1990s, our film industry would regularly generate over $300 million in local projects. That was before incentives and grants. The film industry is a lot like a lot of businesses; you create a business-friendly environment, and they’ll prosper here.

Most films are incorporated by the project, and most of the workforce except for highly compensated actors, producers and directors, are 1099 employees (independent contractors). Lowering the taxes on 1099 employees would also help. This way North Carolina can attract productions by showing the total cost of to the production company and the staff needed to complete the project.

Lastly, the General Assembly has a plan to completely phase out business tax in the next five years. Until then, we’ll continue to support the film grant program. 

PCD: How far should the state go to attract companies and promote economic development? 

JH: The General Assembly under Republican leadership has slowly phased out the business tax. Business taxes have always been regressive. The costs of those taxes are always passed on to the customer, further compounding the negative impact on North Carolinians. As the tax phases out, lowering taxes on individuals must continue, supported by cutting non-essential spending.

Positioning North Carolina as a low tax state to companies and the employees that work for them will be very appealing. Additionally, the current economic development grant program has seen good success and it must maintain performance standards and claw back provisions.

PCD: There has been a lot of talk about reforming ABC laws in the state, often called “draconian” by business owners tied to them. Do you support privatization — and if no, why? Would you support revising the laws at the least? How?

JH: Privatization should be on the table for discussion; however, it must be done with great care. County governments across North Carolina rely on the revenue and jobs. A control system offers some benefits, particularly profitability and revenue to assist with law enforcement. I feel we should understand how county governments will be impacted before acting.

I believe privatization would create more jobs and potentially more tax revenue. Municipalities and counties would need plenty of time to modify their zoning codes to determine what zoning districts and what type of separation requirements they want.

So, yes – but move with caution, study, and input from county governments.

PCD: Do you support the state’s progression toward offshore wind development? Clean energy tax breaks? Explain.

JH: I’m happy to see that renewable energy continues to evolve and develop. As innovation continues, they should become more reliable. Solar for private property owners/consumers to help them reduce their reliance on the grid should be encouraged or incentivized.

Wind energy still has a long way to go; it appears to be a huge job sector in the future.

PCD: What needs to be done to address PFAs in North Carolinians’ drinking water?

JH: Common sense: Polluter pays legislation. Citizens of New Hanover and Brunswick counties have paid through user fees to filter the contaminants out of our drinking water. Polluters such as Chemours must be held accountable, as any other industry.

The General Assembly must also lobby Congress for improved environmental regulations that offer reasonable measures to prevent future pollution through better stormwater regulations for industrial sites that discharge into drinking water supply. Efforts by the EPA to designate two forever chemicals as dangerous is a great first step to improving regulations on the industries using these chemicals. 

READ MORE: EPA proposes adding 2 ‘forever chemicals’ to hazardous substances list

PCD: How does the state need to improve its flood resilience plan to prevent disaster scenarios, like Hurricane Florence’s aftermath?

JH: This is a most difficult challenge, as some of the greatest flood damage often occurs away from the coast. After Hurricane Katrina, western North Carolina suffered some of the most expensive flood damage in its history. In fact, damage done by Hurricane Matthew is still being cleaned up, despite FEMA funding being issued to North Carolina years ago.

That’s a problem of Governor Cooper not getting the funds distributed.

PCD: Where do you stand on the decriminalization of marijuana? Explain.

JH: Opposed. At present there is an enormous amount of medical data of young adults developing psychosis and schizophrenia because of regular marijuana use starting in their teenage years. Regular use of only four to five years causes significant brain damage in teenagers and compromises the mental health of young adults.

I believe the penalty can be dealt with by issuing a ticket with a court appearance for those over 18 as opposed to arrest. Under 18 should be arrested and released to the custody of their parents.

Today’s marijuana is much more potent and dangerous than that of the 1970s. In addition, the increased risk of fentanyl makes it difficult for a user to truly know what they are using. 

PCD: What resources do we need in place to continue to fight Covid-19? How should NC prepare for a future pandemic?

JH: I think we need to maintain open lines of communication with infectious disease experts and analyze data from private research facilities and international sources, as well as the CDC. We should consider reforming the Emergency Powers Act for emergencies that are not natural disasters. 

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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