Carolina Democracy

Not an Impressionable Child!

July 18, 2022 JD Wooten Episode 28
Not an Impressionable Child!
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
Not an Impressionable Child!
Jul 18, 2022 Episode 28
JD Wooten

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by State Senator Sydney Batch of Wake County to discuss her time in the General Assembly and campaign for re-election. But first, we cover several important reminders, review some of the latest political news from around North Carolina, and briefly discuss last week's Jan. 6th Committee Hearing.

January 6th Hearing Resources:

Learn More About Sydney Batch:

Other Resources: 

Carolina Forward:

Contact Us: jd@carolinademocracy.com

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by State Senator Sydney Batch of Wake County to discuss her time in the General Assembly and campaign for re-election. But first, we cover several important reminders, review some of the latest political news from around North Carolina, and briefly discuss last week's Jan. 6th Committee Hearing.

January 6th Hearing Resources:

Learn More About Sydney Batch:

Other Resources: 

Carolina Forward:

Contact Us: jd@carolinademocracy.com

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

Liz Cheney: President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices.

[music transition]

JD Wooten: Welcome back to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re joined by Sydney Batch who represents District 17, covering southern Wake County, in the North Carolina Senate. But first, we have several important reminders, some updates from around North Carolina, and another Jan. 6th hearing to highlight.

So, first – please share this episode with a friend, or post about it on social media. Last Monday we hit a new one-day record for total episode downloads, so thank you everyone who answered our call. As our audience continues to grow, it not only helps future guests, but it also helps past guests because invariably new listeners go back to listen to old episodes. The data confirms this – when we set a new one-day record last Monday, only 75% of those downloads were actually Monday’s episode. The other 25% were pretty evenly spread out over past episodes. So do all our guests, past and future, a favor and share today’s episode.

Second, don’t forget that numerous counties and municipalities across the state have run off primary elections or general elections on July 26th. Early voting has already begun and will run until July 23rd, with election day being Tuesday, July 26th. Check out your local board of elections website for more details.

Third, and this is the last time you’ll hear this reminder, our friends at Carolina Forward will be hosting a Justice for All event on Saturday, July 23rd from 1-4 at Natty Greene’s in Greensboro. North Carolina Supreme Court Justices Sam Ervin and Anita Earls, Court of Appeals Judge and Supreme Court candidate Lucy Inman, and Chief District Court Judge Teresa Vincent of Guilford County will all be there. Link in the show notes to get your ticket and I hope to see you there.

Finally, don’t forget we’ve got a YouTube channel now, featuring video from our various guest interviews. We’ll do our best release video interviews the same week that those interviews come out on the pod. Be on the lookout for two releases this week – my interview with State Senator Sydney Batch, which you’ll hear momentarily, and my interview with State Senator Michael Garrett, which you heard just a few weeks ago. Link to our YouTube channel is in the show notes.

Another note - last week I mentioned the Democracy Docket when explaining the radical Independent State Legislature doctrine and how it’s the foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court taking up the North Carolina redistricting case of Moore v. Harper. And for context of how radical this theory is, several of Trump’s 2020 election lawyers relied on this theory to advance the claim that state legislatures could pick electors without oversight or judicial review, and in some instances, Courts even sanctioned the attorneys for such frivolous and scurrilous arguments. Democracy Docket has now launched and entire new webpage devoted to the Independent State Legislature theory, and I’ll leave a link to that in the show notes as well if you’d like to learn more.

Ok, business out of the way, it’s actually been another relatively quiet week in North Carolina. At essentially the 11th hour, Governor Cooper signed the budget adjustment into law. This budget adjustment has some good stuff, and much needed funding increases for teachers and public education especially, but many argue that it falls far short. I find myself in the camp of saying these increases are better than nothing, and as the last several years have taught us, if Governor Cooper were to veto the bill, there would likely have been a nasty fight to try to override his veto rather than going back to add additional funding. Worst case, there just wouldn’t be any budget adjustment and a lot of people across North Carolina would lose out on principle alone, and that’s not the right answer. So in sum, I don’t love the budget adjustments because I think they fall short of what is needed, but they’re absolutely better than nothing.

In other news, former Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson has decided to continue his fight against the county bonds which passed in May by seeking an injunction from the state court to prevent the board of elections from certifying the bonds’ passage. His argument is that county improperly used public funding to advocate for the passage of the bonds. Both the Guilford County Board of Elections and the State Board of Elections have dismissed the claims citing insufficient evidence. We should have an update next week as the state court will need to act quickly in deciding whether to grant or deny the injunction.

And the last piece of news before turning to the latest January 6th hearing, the Green Party has sued the state board of elections over not being allowed on the ballot this year. The short version is that the Green Party needed 13,865 signatures to petition to be on the ballot. The party appeared to have collected 22,000, but many were suspect. Still, nearly 16,000 of those signatures were initially validated by county boards of elections, well over the roughly 14,000 threshold requirement. However, the state board rejected the petition, citing an investigation that has called into question more than 2,000 of those signatures and pointing back to irregularities that the county boards may have missed. It remains to be seen what will happen but I’m sure we’ll have more updates soon. 

Now, for the January 6th Hearing. The committee held its 7th public hearing last week, and the final public hearing is scheduled for later this week. While this particular hearing did a great job of laying out facts and helping tie together the narrative of what happened in the final weeks leading up to the failed coup on January 6th, I’m not sure there were really any surprises. I guess I’m pleasantly surprised by how well the Committee has been able to present the evidence, but I think we already knew or strongly suspected the underlying facts presented this past week. Still, I think it’s incredibly important to hear from the leadership of the committee and their opening remarks, so here is a brief excerpt from Committee Chair Bennie Thompson:

Bennie Thompason: When I think about the most basic way to explain the importance of elections in the United States, there's a phrase that always comes to mind. It may sound straightforward, but it's meaningful. We settle our differences at the ballot box. Sometimes my choice prevails, sometimes yours does, but it's that simple.

We cast our votes. We count the votes. If something seems off with the results, we can challenge them in court, and then we accept the results. When you're on the losing side, that doesn't mean you have to be happy about it. And in the United States, there's plenty you can do and say so. You can protest.

You can organize. You can get ready for the next election to try to make sure your side has a better chance the next time the people settle their differences at the ballot box. But you can't turn violent. You can't try to achieve your desired outcome through force or harassment or intimidation. Any real leader who sees their supporters going down that path, approaching that line has a responsibility to say stop, we gave it our best, we came up short, we try again next time, because we settle our differences at the ballot box.

On December 14th, 2020, the presidential election was officially over. The Electoral College had cast its vote. Joe Biden was the president elect of the United States. By that point, many of Donald Trump's supporters were already convinced that the election had been stolen because that's what Donald Trump had been telling them.

So, what Donald Trump was required to do in that moment, what would have been required of any American leader, was to say we did our best and we came up short. He went the opposite way. He seized on the anger he had already stoked among his most loyal supporters. And as they approached the line, he didn't wave them off.

He urged them on. Today the committee will explain how, as a part of his last-ditch effort to overturn the election and block the transfer of power, Donald Trump summoned a mob to Washington DC and ultimately spurred that mob to wage a violent attack on our democracy.

JD Wooten: And here are some opening remarks from Vice-Chair Liz Cheney:

Liz Cheney: Today's hearing will take us from December 14th, 2020, when the Electoral College met and certified the results of the 2020 presidential election, up through the morning of January 6th. 

Today's hearing is our seventh. We have covered significant ground over the past several weeks, and we have also seen a change in how witnesses and lawyers in the Trump orbit approach this committee. Initially, their strategy in some cases appeared to be to deny and delay. Today there appears to be a general recognition that the committee has established key facts, including that virtually everyone close to President Trump, his Justice Department officials, his White House advisers, his White House counsel, his campaign, all told him the 2020 election was not stolen.

This appears to have changed the strategy for defending Donald Trump. Now the argument seems to be that President Trump was manipulated by others outside the administration, that he was persuaded to ignore his closest advisers, and that he was incapable of telling right from wrong. The strategy is to blame people his advisers called "the crazies" for what Donald Trump did. This, of course, is nonsense. President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices. 

As our investigation has shown, Donald Trump had access to more detailed and specific information showing that the election was not actually stolen than almost any other American, and he was told this over and over again. No rational or sane man in his position could disregard that information and reach the opposite conclusion. And Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by being willfully blind, nor can any argument of any kind excuse President Trump's behavior during the violent attack on January 6th. 

JD Wooten: Now, I said there weren’t really any surprises, but there’s a major exception. Once again, Liz Cheney dropped a bombshell at the very end, which you could almost miss if you checked out ever so slightly early, like the final post-credit sequence in a Marvel movie. Here’s what she dropped on us:

Liz Cheney: And one more item, after our last hearing, President Trump tried to call a witness in our investigation. A witness you have not yet seen in these hearings. That person declined to answer or respond to President Trump's call and instead alerted their lawyer to the call. Their lawyer alerted us and this committee has supplied that information to the Department of Justice. Let me say one more time, we will take any effort to influence witness testimony very seriously.

JD Wooten: I mean, wasn’t it the very last hearing that we heard her warn about the seriousness of witness tampering on behalf of Donald Trump? And instead of heeding those warning, Donald Trump’s response was to engage in such obviously illegal conduct himself? Again, the pure incompetence and disdain for the law of these people is unreal.

Anyways, there’s a ton of great testimony through that hearing, but rather than include any more right now, I’ll save it for a more in-depth review after the hearings conclude. Suffice to say, if you haven’t watched the hearings or at least skimmed the transcripts, I strongly suggest you do so. I’ll leave links for the seventh hearing video and transcript in today’s show notes, and past episodes have included links for video and transcript from the prior six hearings.

It's in moments like these that I find myself repeating the Serenity Prayer to myself over and over again. It’s easy to get distracted by things we can’t change, and lose sight of what we can. So, before we turn to my interview with Senator Batch, let’s refocus on some of the things that are in our power right here in North Carolina as we seek to protect democracy. First, we have to keep working to elect pro-democracy candidates up and down the ballot. I know it’s easy to get jaded, disillusioned, cynical, and think you know we keep hearing that all the time, the call to vote more, to elect this or elect more of that, and it’s just more of the same. Well, yes and yes. Voting is a like a prescription to treat chronic anti-democracy syndrome. We haven’t found a cure yet for those who want to undermine or overthrow democracy, but we have found a prescription that can help keep them at bay. And that prescription is voting. If you stop taking your medication for a chronic illness, the illness will beat you. If you quit voting, the enemies of democracy will beat you. I don’t think I can explain it any simpler than that.

If you want to support groups on the ground doing the hard work of fighting for democracy, check out The New North Carolina Project and the New Rural Project. If you want to support state candidates in the most competitive races that are most likely to make the difference in which vision of our state and country succeeds, check out Carolina Forward. Links to all of that in the show notes. And now, here’s my interview with State Senator Sydney Batch.

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JD Wooten: With me today is State Senator Sydney Batch who represents District 17, covering Southern Wake County, in the North Carolina Senate. Welcome Senator Batch. 

Sydney Batch: Thank you for having me. It's good to see you. 

JD Wooten: It's my pleasure. So first question right out the gate. What's your earliest memory of politics or getting involved in politics?

Sydney Batch: So I grew up in Chapel Hill and we used to have all of these assemblies and individuals that came in and actually the District Attorney Carl Fox, who then subsequently was a Court of Appeals judge, would always come and actually talk to us yearly. And so he talked about government. He obviously was talking about district attorney's office at that time. And so I guess most formative was in elementary school. It was nice to actually have elected officials come and speak to us about their jobs and what their role was, etc.

JD Wooten: Okay. So you're a native North Carolinian who eventually ended up at UNC Chapel Hill for undergrad, law school, and you managed to pick up a graduate degree in social work along the way while you were there in chapel hill. What led you towards your studies in law and social work? 

Sydney Batch: Yeah, that's a great question. So I think my drive towards law and social work in particular is that when I was in undergrad, I always knew that I wanted to help marginalized communities. Thought that I actually wanted to be an oncologist, and then chemistry, Chem 10 at UNC made it very clear that, that I was not cut out. So I immediately started majoring in English and then found that I still wanted to help people, and so I decided that I wanted to become a social worker. But in talking to a number of social workers, they told me that you aren't able to truly affect the change that you want within the system, and that I should go and get my law degree. And so I said, well, I want to actually know about the communities that I am trying to help. And I also want to have the knowledge base that comes with a degree in social work. So I said, all right, I'll do that, but I will do both. So I got my master's in social work and law knowing that frankly, I would have at least the policy basis and the knowledge from social work that I could use in my legal career. And on any given day, I probably use my social work degree in the skills that I've learned there, especially in the General Assembly, more than my legal chops on any given day.

JD Wooten: That's fascinating. So in your day job, as if being in the State Senate was not enough already, you're a small business owner, social worker, and attorney specializing in child welfare fair law. Was there anything in particular that led to that part of your legal focus? I mean, you just talked about the broad strokes, but... 

Sydney Batch: Right. Yeah, so my mom has always been like a she's fierce as I'll get out OB-GYN and has, you know, my, my parents have always been small business owners, etc. And I knew that I love working with children, but one of the things that always drove home that she said, especially as being at OB-GYN, she's like you change a mother and you change a family. And I really believe that in a lot of the work that I do in the child welfare space, I've represented foster parents. I've represented birth parents. I represented the agency, the guardian ad litem program and kids themselves. And what it always comes back to is that you might be born in a zip code which is going to dictate, unfortunately, your health, your life expectancy, and a lot of other things that you have access to. And so I really was drawn to an area where I knew that I wanted to help individuals, and I wanted to help working with kids, and the best way that you can actually help working with kids other than representing them is to be able to of course, help and support them getting permanency by working with their families in particular. So I've been very fortunate to work with foster parents and also parents for the past 17 years on making sure that kids are safe and can hopefully grow up in their own homes and find permanency when they can't in foster homes with adoptive parents. 

JD Wooten: I think that's phenomenal in such a needed area. And I will readily concede that my memory of family law and especially child welfare law can be summed up with "best interest of the child." 

Sydney Batch: Exactly. It's the polar star. You're a genius. You can go ahead and come and join me in my law firm and we could practice together. And it's also the squishy part of law, right? They were like, do you have case law? Like, yeah, we have case law, except for, it's just the best interest of the child. It's the polar star. So you throw anything up there and you see what the judge actually appreciates. 

JD Wooten: I remember days and days of bar exam review, and it all boiled down to, well, what's the best interest of the child?

Sydney Batch: Right. 

JD Wooten: Okay. 

Sydney Batch: You're like, thank you. I actually gave you a dissertation and a memo on all of these 13 cases that are at the Supreme Court and the judge goes, okay, well, I think what's best is X, Y, and Z. And good luck appealing it cause you're going to lose. So yes, you're absolutely right. You do all this study only for it to come down to one sole issue.

JD Wooten: Well, at least that's the guiding star. I think that's a noble one. So you decided to jump into state politics by running for the State House in 2018. And you were part of that group who gave Democrats enough seats in the General Assembly to break the GOP super majority and sustain Governor Cooper's veto. What led you to wanting to run in 2018? 

Sydney Batch: Another great question. So at that time and it probably shouldn't surprise you, it might surprise some viewers. So women normally have to be asked seven times to run for office. Most men don't have to be asked at all, or they're asked once and they're like, sure, why not? But women, it takes us a while, waiting for perfection and the perfect time. But it's sort of like, you know, when do you have your first kid? Oh, when the time is right. There's never a right time. So I was asked to run when my children were one in three and my response was very quickly, my children are one in three, and that conversation ended. But when they were five and seven, my five-year-old was about to go into kindergarten, I was approached again by another organization asking for women to run for office. And at that time, and still to this day, only 25% of the General Assembly is made of women, and definitely, I think it's about 25% or less people of color. There aren't that many attorneys anymore given the hellacious schedule that we have. And so on a rubric, right? Like I, I fill a lot of boxes. But that wasn't my drive to actually run. It's one of the benefits, right? I think a government should look like the people it serves. So it does not look currently like the people it serves in the State of North Carolina. So I did fill those bubbles as you would or check marks. But I think my real drive is that having done family law for so long and representing dependent spouses or people who have worked their entire life at one or two jobs, they go through a divorce and are having really difficult times, they sell their house. We represented tons of people during the economic downturn in 2008. And the policies that we were passing at the General Assembly were not helping working families at all. So people who put their sweat equity in every single day in their jobs for years and years would then find themselves separating or having to take care of their kids without enough money to be able to feed their kids and keep a roof over their head. And it wasn't cuz they were lazy. It wasn't because they weren't doing all of the work and all of the things to put themselves in the best position. They simply just did not have the resources. A lot of clients, when they got divorced, didn't have access to health insurance, and health insurance is extremely expensive. And so, all of the challenges that a lot of my families were facing could be addressed at the state level. And so I finally decided that I wanted, you know, just like with law and social work, where I was like I'm not gonna just do one or the other. I decided the exact same thing with regards to politics and government and serving, which is I can still have one foot in the door in the courtroom, and I can help one family at a time. But if we pass policies in the legislature and I'm in the legislature, then we can help millions of people at a time. And so I still, I think, have best of both worlds where I still have that very, you know, intimate relationship with my clients where I represent them in court. And then I also take what I've learned over the course of time in representing them, and I apply that to policy that we've been able to pass at the General Assembly and advocate for working families in particular.

JD Wooten: Brilliant. And, I can attest it did not take seven times to talk me into running. It did take a couple times given the environment, but I don't think it was seven. 

Sydney Batch: It'll be fun says no one ever. I'm like, okay, cool, cool. I don't tell people when they wanna run for office, it'll be fun. Like, it'll be worth it. I don't know about fun. 

JD Wooten: Different members gave me very different glosses on it. And one seasoned member told me, oh, it'll only take you about 10, 12 hours a week as a candidate. 

Sydney Batch: And you're like, are you in a really safe district? Cause that's the only way that you're looking at that. 

JD Wooten: I won't answer that question because I think it answers itself. However... 

Sydney Batch: The wonderful rhetorical question of politics and... 

JD Wooten: Yeah.

Sydney Batch: What it really means when you are in competitive districts. 

JD Wooten: Let's just say they weren't a targeted district to try and flip any chambers ever. Alright, so in 2021, you were appointed to replace State Senator Sam Searcy when he stepped down. And so you've now been in both the State House and the State Senate. I'm curious to know, how would you compare your time in the two chambers? 

Sydney Batch: Yeah, they are night and day. Like I never thought, you know, when I was in the House, you don't really interact with the Senate. And now that I'm in the Senate, I have to make plans to go and see my colleagues and my friends in the House. I gotta figure out when they're in session or I gotta go find them because they really are just two different worlds. I would say that the House is much more of a ask for forgiveness rather than permission chamber and the Senate is you best ask for permission. And that's in both the caucuses, right? I mean, they just run very, very differently. The scheduling is different. Of course, with less people, sometimes you have less problems and in the Senate. And so it also just is, no offense to the House, very efficient. I would say that in the past year and a half, we have not been in session past 7:30 at night. And that's probably on two occasions, and that's when we're talking about the budget. In the House, I was in session until 3:00 AM. And we would be there on regular and consistent basis at, you know, seven o'clock, eight, o'clock it. And that's just not the, that is not the way that the Senate works. The Senate is known, you better be brief, and get to the point. The House is not that way, right? So I would say the House and the Senate are absolutely night and day. They both have their own unique personalities. Very much miss my colleagues in the house, but I love the efficiency of the Senate, which actually allows me to bill more hours at my law firm than I ever could do in the House, for sure. And I also can get home to eat dinner with my kids a lot more often and see my husband more. So the Senate has been nice for regards to scheduling for sure. 

JD Wooten: That's amazing and fascinating given what I imagine a lot of people's assumptions are and what we know about the national Congress, the House versus the Senate and where all the debate happens at the national level or the unlimited debate, rather I should say. And doesn't necessarily carry over to the State Senate. 

Sydney Batch: Yeah. And how like, no, get to the point we've already heard you and let's be honest. You already know how you're gonna vote when you walk on the floor. I wanna find some members who actually change their vote after hearing a robust debate back and forth. I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I'm just saying it doesn't happen often. 

JD Wooten: Well, we'll get to it in just a second, but we know at least one instance where a notable member of the State Senate, it took him 10 years, but he eventually came around to making a shift, but...

Sydney Batch: Also very true. 

JD Wooten: So now that we've gotten the fun background part out of the way, let's shift gears now to the ballot and this year. And every poll I've seen has the economy and inflation as the overwhelming number one priority for people right now. I know the State Senate is considering a gas tax rebate. We've heard a little from Senator Garrett a few weeks ago on that, but as another of the bill's primary sponsors, could you remind us about that, what it would entail, and where that stands now? 

Sydney Batch: Yeah, so because we've ended short session unfortunately the gas tax is not moving, it was not included in the budget. So Senator Blue, Senator Garrett, myself, had a lot of discussions and to your point, right, inflation is the number one issue. There's no more important issue right now. When people are worried about putting food on their table and a roof over their head. Especially with the escalating costs of housing, gas, etc. And so at a time where we have record tax revenue, our tax dollars at $8 billion more than we expected, and we have record need, instead of actually returning that money to the wonderful people of North Carolina taxpayers the Republicans in the Senate and House decided to go ahead and squirrel away money in the rainy day fund. Now I support a rainy-day fund. I think that's really important for us to have reserves. My question is if this isn't a rainy day, what is a rainy day? People are really struggling. And so we proposed a rebate card because we know that if you suspend a gas tax, one of the issues is of the highway fund then doesn't have the money that it needs to go ahead and fix our roads and keep our bridges and all the other infrastructure in play. So we decided that we were gonna take money from the revenue that we have made, tax revenue, and return it to taxpayers. The one thing that I will agree with you know, Speaker Moore and also President pro tem Berger is that they said last year, that tax dollars should be returned to the taxpayers and that all of the tax dollars that we have in revenue is best spent and best served by returning it to of course our constituents and taxpayers. That is not what is being done. It's being held in reserves. And so I say, and we say that you give every single driver $200 card to go ahead and pay for the equivalent of six months of suspending the gas taxes, about $200. And then we take it from the general fund and the revenue that we have so we still support the highway trust fund that we need. And then we also give money back to people who are really struggling. I think somebody from President Berger's office said, well, you know, that's not going to do anything. It's like, well, you obviously don't know people who work one and two and three jobs and have to drive every single day. Cause $200 is not nothing in the grand scheme of things of people who have to try and figure out how to get their kids to camp, and then subsequently go to work, and go back and forth. And so I just challenge anyone to say that if you don't think that $200 in a household is helpful, I suggest you start talking to people who work for a living and live paycheck to paycheck to see whether or not they think that $200 would be helpful. Unfortunately it wasn't included in the budget and we don't think that we're going to get those cards to people at a time in which they need it the most.

JD Wooten: Well, that's very unfortunate to hear. Perhaps they're waiting for the rainy day when Republicans have more control at the national level and they take us straight to World War III. Then it'll be a rainy day. 

Sydney Batch: It'll be a rainy day, yeah. Or I don't know, climate change, like when, when we start having earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes all in one, and it's a sharknado, maybe when it's a sharknado, that is when we'll actually use the rainy-day funds to go ahead and help people's medical bills as we get, you know, attacked by great whites.

JD Wooten: Yeah, well, hey, you know, the EPA can't regulate anything anymore, so we're just...

Sydney Batch: Right!

JD Wooten: Gliding, happily that direction anyway.

Sydney Batch: We'll need it for all the forest fires that will be set very shortly because of course climate change. So absolutely don't worry. We'll use it at some point. Just not now when people are in desperate need of it, unfortunately.

JD Wooten: Well sticking with the negative doomsday theme, we also recently saw a bill out of the State Senate that I think your colleague, Michael Garrett dubbed HB2, Classroom Edition. It's another of those, don't say gay bill copycats, but it's actually titled Parents' Bill of Rights, and as I understand it, the Senate Democrats have their own Parents' Bill of Rights and you're a primary sponsor for that. Can you tell us about that version of a Parents' Bill of Rights, and why that's the right way to go?

Sydney Batch: So, you know, Senator Garrett and I have young kids in school. Actually his kiddos, one is in school, the other is in preschool. But we are a handful of legislators in that building that actually have school-aged children. That is also a rarity especially for, for women. And we are involved in our children's schools and we think it's extremely important for us to understand about their education, what they're learning, etc.. We believe that the best way to go ahead and involve parents in schools, but also to legislate is by building consensus, not division. And so our Bill of Rights goes through 10 different premises with regards to rights that parents have, including some that were included in the Republican Bill of Rights that they filed with regards to just making sure that you are able to know what your children are learning, demand the fact that your children should actually have the resources that they need with regards to any type of disabilities. We have additional changes that I think are really helpful in our bill, specifically, knowing about the safety risks that your children and threats that happen at your children's school. That is not necessarily something that is always and consistently provided to parents, but given everything that we see every single day with school shootings across this country, and frankly Senator Garrett and I both emotional dropping our children off the next day after Uvalde. Like I had to get my kids out of the car before I started crying or dropping them off because I'm terrified about their safety, right? And so our bill says, you know what, schools and school districts need to provide information about safety and security of their children. And we always want more parents involved. When parents are involved in schools, when people are involved in their PTAs, when they understand that they have open access, can come to the school and be contributors of the wellbeing of their kids, their students, and their academic success, kids do better and schools thrive. And so we want to make sure that people have those rights and parents have those rights in a way in which it actually is going to benefit the wellbeing and safety of their children. The other thing that we added also which is not included in the Republican version is the fact that children have the right to have the resources and the funding necessary in their schools to be successful, right? And so it's very much like the Leandro decision where every single child in North Carolina has an absolute constitutional right to a sound basic education, and our Parents' Bill of Rights gives parents the right to demand that the resources necessary for their children to be successful are given to them in that bill and that the school systems have to provide that. So you know, we believe in consensus building, we believe parents need to be involved, and we, we think that everyone is better off when this happens and our bill definitely drives that message home. And if passed would allow for a lot more access for parents to be involved in their kids' schools. 

JD Wooten: And lest there be any doubt or confusion, you manage to do that in a bill that doesn't simultaneously target otherwise vulnerable populations at the same time. 

Sydney Batch: Yes, there are a lot of issues that we're facing, frankly, in our state, but what I hear from parents is that they are concerned about the education their children are receiving and their safety when they are there. And when we can build consensus and come together, we don't have to deal with all of these other issues that are being made that are just, at least in my opinion, we are working together for a common good and a common goal for the wellbeing of children. And I just do not necessarily see that some of my colleagues across the aisle want to do that. And so we were hoping that it would get some momentum, and it would move. But unfortunately, as a Democrat in the minority and in a very competitive seat, my bills sit rules committee, or in base budget and don't move. And that's the way of politics, unfortunately. It's how our government's running right now. 

JD Wooten: Well, that's unfortunate to hear, but just gotta keep fighting that fight because, and this is the shocking turn that we recently saw, the state Senate passed two bills, one to expand Medicaid and the other to legalize medical marijuana. There's been some nays saying in the recent news about whether either of those will ever be taken up by the House, but any updates you can share or rumors you want to help start on that front?

Sydney Batch: Oh, rumors. I feel like I'm like the bad penny that keeps on turning up. Whatever chamber I'm in is the one that wants to pass Medicaid, but somehow doesn't get it done. So when I was in the House, there was a huge push for Medicaid Expansion. We had the bills, we were working on it. And of course in the Senate, they were like, absolutely not. This is a nonstarter, stop wasting our time, we're not talking about it. And then I get in the Senate and they're like, hey, by the way, let's go ahead and pass Medicaid Expansion, and the House, absolutely not. We are not gonna take this up in the bill that you filed, so we'll come back in December. The house has a proposal to come back and actually just put a very clean Medicaid Expansion bill forward to go ahead and vote it up or down in December. The Senate said, no, we already gave you a bill. So the House didn't want to take up the Senate bill. I am happy that both chambers at some point have said that they agree that Medicaid expansion needs to be done, and it is great for our state. It was great to hear Senator Berger talk about all of the things that Democrats have been talking about for the past decade as to why it's beneficial for Medicaid expansion to actually pass. My concern is that if it doesn't pass the session and they actually win a super majority in November, we're not gonna see Medicaid expansion. So I'm really concerned about that. 

And with medical marijuana that was a really interesting bill too, because it wasn't just everybody, I think said everything's so partisan, right? So Democrats versus the Republicans. Now if you've looked at that medical marijuana vote, there are a number of Democrats and Republicans who do not support of course medical marijuana and some that do. And so that was interesting because you have to find members and you have to actually communicate, God forbid, with all of the legislators to see where they stand on that. So the Senate, we were very proud to pass both of those out, but unfortunately medical marijuana is also not likely to move anytime soon in the House, given some of the members and leadership over there that are not supportive of it. 

JD Wooten: The only thing I'll push back on any of that is, I don't think you're the bad penny that keeps turning up. I think you're the lucky penny, and we need to find a way to have one of you in each chamber at the same time. 

Sydney Batch: Thank you very much, that's kind of you to say. 

JD Wooten: All right, so you've now sponsored over a hundred bills in your time in the General Assembly. You're quite clearly all about trying to get things done. And we could probably do a whole series covering all of that great work, but that said, I'd rather leave our listeners begging for more, rather than the inverse. So let's just say what's one other bill or project in your current work you want listeners to know about? 

Sydney Batch: So in Wake County in particular, and we've seen this across North Carolina, but in Wake County, we are actually the second least affordable place for home ownership in the entire country. So based on the average income of an individual and how much a house costs, the average person cannot afford it. And so one of the bills that I sponsored this session was the Homes for Heroes Act. I think it's really important that people should live where they work and work, where they live. And that's increasingly becoming much more difficult, especially for those individuals who don't actually make six figures but give so much to their community. And so that bill actually would allow a certain amount of closing costs and down payment assistance to basically firefighters, law enforcement officers, and teachers, so that they can actually stay in their communities and work. What we hear, especially in Wake County and Southern Wake County, that there's a huge boom. But the problem is is that if you're making $45,000 as teacher, you can't afford to live in wake County, even on your own, with regards to rent because things are so cost prohibitive. And I don't think that it's fair for those who give so much back to our community as public servants, aren't able to get into home ownership. And so I'm really proud of that bill that would of course have a recurring fund for the entire state, for people who qualify to be able to actually get into home ownership. Unfortunately that it did not pass or make it to a committee hearing. 

JD Wooten: So in addition to currently serving in the State Senate, you're also campaigning for reelection. Aside from all the great work that we just talked about that you're doing in the actual job serving, is there anything else that you really want people to know about your campaign platform or, you know, just generally why people should support you?

Sydney Batch: So I think right now we're really at a critical juncture in democracy. Everybody says every election is most important. I think people are tired of hearing that. But the reality is is that every single election becomes more important and there's more at stake. And we see that time and time again. With the Dobbs decision coming out, and Roe being struck down, and for the first time in, you know, 49 years, women don't have a choice in many states, 11 I believe in this country, to be able to determine their own destinies and also control of their own bodies. North Carolina is literally the southern state, the only southern state right now that has not had significant restrictions and or elimination of abortion. And that's because of Governor Cooper and also the Democrats that have been able to be able to sustain his veto. And so Roe is not the only important issue that's gonna be at the ballot box. And the economy is absolutely the number one thing most people are concerned about. But every single person who cares about, you know, your ability to have autonomy over your destiny, your life, and your body, should really care about how they vote in November. And also we've seen with elections, actually, there are a lot of bills that have been proposed to go ahead and restrict access to ballot box. For my campaign, I really am focusing on how to make life in Wake County easier by making sure that we of course have a lot of economic investment in our area. We've had really great businesses. I mean, we have a huge biotech and life sciences industry that comes to Holly Springs and brings really fantastic, great paying jobs. But I think that it's also important to make sure that the only pathway to being successful, isn't going to get a four year degree or a graduate degree because there's so many other jobs and trades. And so, you know, I've sponsored bills with making sure that people wanna go to community college. They can go on a promise scholarship where it's paid by, you know, and you have certain grade point average, etc.. And so what I focus on at least in my campaign is I believe that you know, a rising tide lifts all boats. And if we work to support the middle class, then everyone will do well. Those who are in poverty will do better. Those who are of course are wealthy, will continue to do better as we have seen through this recession. And so in moving forward with regards to at least this election, I really am focused on making sure that in the time when people have such significant need and we're heading into a recession that they have the income and they have the stability that they need in order to make sure that they don't lose their housing, that they can still feed their kids, that they can still keep their jobs. And if they do get laid off that there's some type of safety net for those individuals during really hard times to be able to weather the storm. I absolutely believe we can do it. We just have to actually have people who care enough about the working people of North Carolina in the legislature to ensure that we're passing legislation that actually supports them instead of hurting them or hamstring them in some way to go ahead and actually live the American dream. I really am working and I try very hard to work every single day for the constituents in my district to ensure that their quality of life continues to improve by some of the policies that I promote and the votes that I take at the General Assembly. 

JD Wooten: Well, I'm sold and caring about democracy is kind of built into the title of this podcast. So uh, where can people go to learn more about you, your campaign, your platform, volunteer, and donate, and support you?

Sydney Batch: Oh, thank you for that. So sydneybatch.com, it's very easy. There's a volunteer sign up there's information about the legislation that I have proposed and passed. I think it's gonna be the most expensive legislative race in the state. And it's the most competitive in the State Senate for incumbency. So it's gonna cost about two and a half million dollars, which is sad, cause we could put two and a half million dollars and so many other wonderful things. But alas, this is where we are, and until we have campaign finance reform, this is where we're gonna be. So anyone wants to phone call, canvas, donate, I would be greatly appreciative. 

JD Wooten: Well, I am quite familiar with what a two and a half million-dollar State Senate race looks you like, and I wish you all the best. And before I starting PTSD on my own part, I will just say thank you for all that you're doing, best of luck. We'll make sure to leave links in the show notes so everyone can support you. Thanks again Senator Batch for taking the time join us today. 

Sydney Batch: Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to Senator Sydney Batch for joining us today, and to everyone for listening. Links are in the show notes for everything from today’s episode. If you have questions or comments, send me an email at jd@carolinademocracy.com. And again, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!

Introduction
Interview with Sydney Batch
Closing Notes