APN Candidate Q&A: Josh Noblitt, HD 59
(APN) ATLANTA — In our continuing coverage of the Georgia State House District 59 race, to replace State Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta), this article contains the responses of candidate Josh Noblitt to the Atlanta Progressive News candidate questionnaire.
Noblitt is the Minister of Social Justice and Evangelism at Saint Mark United UMC, and is also a marriage and family therapist.
He serves as the President of the South Atlanta Civic League, Vice Chair of City of Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit Y, a volunteer chaplain for the Atlanta Police Department, a board member of WonderRoot and For The Kid In Us All.
He previously served as a member for Emory University Hope Clinic for HIV/AIDS Research and Advisory Board, and as a mitigation specialist for the Georgia Public Defender’s Office and for the Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of Georgia.
Noblitt has spent the last two years opposing religious freedom legislation in the Georgia General Assembly.
Previously, APN ran the responses of candidate Janine Brown.
APN just sent candidate David Dreyer his questionnaire on yesterday, March 11, 2016, and he still has nearly two weeks to complete it. Dreyer states his intention to complete it as soon as possible and APN will publish Dreyer’s responses as quickly as possible when they are received.
Noblitt’s responses are nearly two thousand words in length. Thus, APN has added short, parenthetical summaries of the bottom line of the candidate’s answers to the beginning of some responses, in order to provide a more quick and accessible resource for our readers.
DO YOU BELIEVE ALL HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEES SHOULD KEEP MINUTES INCLUDING A RECORD OF ALL VOTES, YEAS, NAYS, AND ABSTENTIONS; AND THAT THOSE MINUTES SHOULD BE MADE PUBLIC? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL IDEAS FOR TRANSPARENCY AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS?
An open, transparent and honest government is a cornerstone of my campaign. Citizens are demanding more, not less, transparency from their elected officials and I agree. Restoration of the public’s trust through meaningful ethics reform has been long championed by Democratic candidates. Citizen participation and engagement in the government process can and will occur through a level playing field and recent polling of both Democrats and Republicans demonstrates that ethics reform is wanted by the public. Open meetings with recorded votes is a step in that direction.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON NUCLEAR POWER?
(Editor: Supports short-term use.)
Nuclear power today accounts for around 20 percent of the total electricity in the United States. Many argue that nuclear power is expensive, dangerous and requires long-term planning. One thing is true: the nuclear energy debate draws strong opinions from each side.
I don’t believe nuclear power is a permanent solution, but as energy option, nuclear energy is certainly in the arsenal of existing energy sources.
An additional part of the nuclear debate in Georgia continues to take place surrounding Georgia Power’s advance billing of its customers for building a nuclear facility – a program that is far behind its projected completion timeline and costs that are exceeding estimates.
My energy solution preference is to find more cost-effective, renewable sources such as wind, solar and water.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS, IF ANY, TO EXPAND WIND AND SOLAR IN GEORGIA?
I am a proponent of alternative renewable energy solutions and reducing our carbon emissions.
After many years, the costs of wind and solar options are beginning to gain ground in cost-effectiveness (against the traditional coal and natural gas options).
I support subsidies that help generate programs and businesses that can provide these alternative energy methods and I support the emergence of neighborhood and other community co-ops that band together to enable alternative energy at a lower cost.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT REDUCING PETITION REQUIREMENTS FOR INDEPENDENT AND POLITICAL BODY (MINOR PARTY) CANDIDATES FROM THE CURRENT ONE PERCENT STATEWIDE, FIVE PERCENT NON-STATEWIDE REQUIREMENT? IF SO, WHAT SHOULD THE NEW REQUIREMENT BE, IF ANY?
Georgia may be one of the worst states in the nation, when it comes to third party/minor candidate participation due to onerous requirements and a 2012 case that essentially upheld the existing law.
At this point, I’m not ready to offer specifics on what the new requirements should be but I am very open to helping put together a team of campaign and election experts to help determine the specifics.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT ADDING A VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL TO ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEMS IN GEORGIA?
Georgia unified its voting system and purchased 20,000 voting machines in 2002. The machines purchased are Direct-Recording Electronic machines without the capacity to create a paper trail.
As these initial machines age, and new equipment is purchased, it is time for the state to consider equipment that can create a paper ballot that allows for auditing.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE REFERENDUM TO CREATE A STATEWIDE OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT TO TAKE OVER SO-CALLED “FAILING” SCHOOLS?
(Editor: Candidate’s response raises concerns regarding OSD but does not state a position.)
This constitutional amendment resolution and enabling legislation would implement the statewide Opportunity School District to take over schools deemed to be failing.
The amendment contains no limitations on what schools can be taken over. The enabling legislation calls for up to 20 schools to be taken over each year up to a maximum of 100. Public schools would be converted to state charter schools or directly run by the OSD. After five years or three consecutive years scoring above a 60 on the CCRPI, schools could transition back to the local district. Charter schools would remain state charter schools but still receive local school district funding.
Under the auspices of helping failing schools, SR 287, the Opportunity School District (OSD) program, fails to address the underlying root causes of why some Georgia schools are failing – namely poverty. This constitutional amendment will go before voters November 2016.
The measure creates a single statewide school district governed by a superintendent the Governor appoints. That superintendent reports only to the Governor.
While this proposal was modeled after New Orleans, the administration did not take into account the recommendations Louisiana educators gave to the Governor’s team and others during a site visit.
The OSD program provides no new resources. New Orleans had significant external funding largely due to the Katrina storm; New Orleans almost doubled per student funding after Katrina. Tennessee and other takeover systems also had external federal and state funding.
New Orleans educators warned that taking over schools destabilizes the community. It creates large teacher turnover in a market that is brutally competitive for talented education leaders.
This system does not work well beyond urban centers and rural communities end up with a school system run from Atlanta. The OSD plan doesn’t take into account in the challenges faced by communities with high-needs students.
Further, the 20 schools per year intervention threshold is too high. New Orleans experts said choosing a smaller handful of schools (5 or 6) allows for building political will and community support. Otherwise, the entire system is undermined.
Change comes slowly to new schools/systems. Many charter school operators are ill prepared to handle the task of taking control of failing schools. Community involvement and engagement is limited under this attempt at reform. A coalition of the willing must be built.
I support a Community Schools model that addresses the underlying problems of failing schools, such as tutoring, meals, access to schools at night and on weekends, etc.
DO YOU SUPPORT AN EXPANDED MEDICAL CANNABIS PROGRAM (IN-STATE CULTIVATION, FULL PLANT MEDICINE, EXPANDED LIST OF CONDITIONS)? DO YOU SUPPORT DECRIMINALIZATION (NON-MEDICAL)? DO YOU SUPPORT LEGALIZATION (NON-MEDICAL)?
(Editor: Candidate supports in-state cannabis oil cultivation and expanded medical program. No position stated on non-medical decriminalization or full legalization.)
In 2015, the Georgia General Assembly decriminalized possession of up to 20 oz. of low-THC cannabis oil for persons registered with and possession a card issued by the Department of Public Health.
Individuals and caregivers for individuals diagnosed with cancer, ALS, seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease, or sickle cell disease would be able register and obtain a card. A Senate substitute required all conditions other than Crohn’s disease and mitochondrial disease to be severe or end stage and removed fibromyalgia.
Possession of less than 20 oz. without a card would be a misdemeanor. Possession of more than 20 oz. would be a felony with punishments comparable to other drug offenses.
It would also create the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis to establish comprehensive recommendations regarding the potential regulation of medical cannabis in this state and evaluate and consider the best practices, experiences, and results of legislation in other states with regard to medical cannabis. [Editor’s note: this Commission was created and met several times in 2015, as reported by APN.]
Health care providers would be given immunity from prosecution or suit resulting from allowing patients to possess or use cannabis oil in conformity with state law. [Editor’s note: this immunity is currently in place.]
The measure authorized the Board of Regents to perform a drug trial with cannabidiol for children diagnosed with medication resistant epilepsies. The legislation created a license as proof of participation in the trial. The trial ends on July 1, 2019.
During the 2016 session, now in process, advocates have pushed for expansion of those who can gain access to the trials and expand the list of diseases that are covered. I support these moves and the exploration of producing the oils in state, so as not to put our citizens in harm’s way, by attaining the medical oils elsewhere and having to transport them back to Georgia and risk violating federal drug transportation laws.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON CITYHOOD AND ANNEXATION IN GENERAL? DO YOU BELIEVE GEORGIA’S CITYHOOD AND ANNEXATION LAWS SHOULD BE CHANGED? IF SO, HOW?
The race for cityhood began a decade ago with the creation of Sandy Springs – a 30-year fight to become a city. Many in North Fulton saw this new city as an opportunity to create the new county of Milton by creating five other [Editor’s note: three other] North Fulton cities, in advance of county approval.
Since then, the creation of cities has become a political game, with very few winners.
I am a pragmatist and believe there are cost savings to be realized in regionalizing services – not balkanized cities. I fear that, long-term, we may see many newly created cities in financial crisis.
I support local control, and certainly the citizens living in these areas should have the right to determine their governance and future, using the appropriate legislative process.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE PROPOSALS FOR NEW CITIES IN DEKALB COUNTY, SUCH AS STONECREST AND GREENHAVEN?
House District 59 does not encompass any of these areas. These are decisions for DeKalb County residents, the elected delegation and the Local Calendar process in the state legislature.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE PROPOSED CITY OF SOUTH FULTON?
House District 59 does not encompass any of these areas. These are decisions for the residents of these districts, the elected delegation and the Local Calendar process in the state legislature.
DO YOU SUPPORT GMO LABELING?
GMO labeling is part of the consumer trend in transparency. More information allows consumers to make informed decisions. The public has a right to know about which ingredients they are consuming.
My position is pro-consumer and pro public health. The FDA does not test nor does it require companies to test the safety of genetically engineered crops. And because these crops are relatively new, longitudinal health studies have not been published about the safety of these products.
In the end, a free market is not free when it is not open and candid.
DO YOU SUPPORT ANY OF THE RECENT PROPOSALS REDUCING THE EARLY VOTING PERIOD, OR ALLOWING LOCAL JURISDICTIONS FLEXIBILITY TO REDUCE EARLY VOTING?
Voting is the cornerstone of democracy and compromising the ease by which we all vote is only compromising our democratic principles.
In fact, Georgia is breaking early voting records this year.
Early voting, gives every voter an additional opportunity to fit the important act of voting into their busy schedules, reduces the crush of voters on Election Day, makes the entire voting process more efficient, and reduces the cost and long lines at the polls on Election Day. No voter should have to wait more than one hour to vote.
While some jurisdictions tout curtailing early voting as a cost-saving measure, it could ultimately end up costing big cities more money. The fewer opportunities to vote, often means more voters on election day, which could lead to the purchasing of more voting machines or additional staffing hours to deal with the volume and to ensure voter satisfaction.
Early voting makes the administration of elections and work of election officials more accurate with less possibility of errors, Election Day less hectic.
In addition, eliminating early voting precincts can have a disproportionate effect on poorer communities with limited access to transportation
“Early voting periods provide opportunities to vote outside of the traditional Election Day, accounting for work and family obligations, transportation limitations, and the other life realities of voters of color and the working and poor,” says Leah Aden [Assistant Counsel with the Political Participation Group of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund].
Taking this a step further, I support Automatic Voter Registration, which would eliminate many unnecessary hassles that can prevent people from voting. There are well over a million Georgia residents who are eligible to vote but have not been registered. Every year people will find themselves unable to vote because they missed a voter registration deadline or were simply unaware that voter registration involves submitting yet another for to the government. This legislation would remove that hassle and ensure that most Georgians are able exercise their right to vote.
The state already collects lots of information on residents through everyday transactions such as driver’s license applications, tax returns, and a myriad of other government forms. Therefore, requiring an additional, specific process to register to vote is often unnecessary.
DO YOU SUPPORT A U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE CITIZENS UNITED RULING, CLARIFYING THE ABILITY OF CONGRESS TO REGULATE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS? (THE STATE COULD EITHER CALL FOR SUCH AN AMENDMENT BY RESOLUTION OR CALL FOR A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.)
While I am absolutely against the Citizens United ruling that created an open season against the every-man voter in favor of Super PACs, a U.S. Constitutional Amendment does not fall within the duties of a state elected official. As noted in the question, the state could ask for a resolution, however these “urging resolutions” carry little or no weight at the federal level. A constitutional convention, given the current make up of our state legislature, would likely do more harm than good.
I would certainly support the efforts of our Congressional delegation to pass legislation that better regulates/reforms campaign finances.