Skip to:

Surprise Short Session (July edition)

Surprise Short Session in Raleigh (July edition)

North Carolina voters are going to be asked to decide on six amendments to our state constitution in November. In the past 20 years, there have been only seven amendments, so six in one year is historic. The Republicans in Raleigh enjoy a super-majority in both the House and the Senate, allowing them to pass by a three-fifths vote the legislation needed to place these amendments on the ballot. My plan for this column was to lay out the amendments for your consideration, but suddenly out of the blue I was called back to Raleigh for a Special Session. I received official notice at 1 pm on July 23 to be in Raleigh at 10 the next morning. So I packed up and took of that evening. The General Assembly has exempted itself from giving proper notice for meetings– like, for instance, the two weeks my church must observe. I was able to crawl into my Raleigh bed at 2:30 am. What were we being called to Raleigh to do? It was to interrupt a process that this body voted in two years ago, and it goes like this. When there are amendments on the ballot, a commission would be authorized to write in simple language (captions) describing in brief each amendment. That commission was to be made up of the attorney general, a legislative employee, and the secretary of state. Two of the three members are Democrats, and the Republicans were afraid the captions would not toe their party line. So a bill was passed today to eliminate the captions altogether. My understanding is that the commission will meet and write the captions anyway, setting up a true battle over words. More Partisan Maneuvering Also at the special session, a second bill emerged in the NC Senate that you might also fnd of interest, as it, too, involves partisan maneuvering leading up to the November 6 election. There is a statewide judicial election for the NC Supreme Court in November. Earlier in the year, the General Assembly made two changes. First they eliminated the primary for this race, citing work being done on districts for other races for judgeships, even though the Supreme Court judge does not run in a district but across the whole state. Secondly, the races would become partisan, a highly unusual and controversial return to an older era. A Republican group, pretending to be sympathetic to Democrats, sent out mailers to lawyers in NC urging them to run for the Supreme Court. My lawyer seatmate, Marcia Morey, received them and showed them to me. Why would the Republicans want more Democrats on the ballot? Without a primary, you could have several Democrats and only one Republican, and the Democratic candidates would split their votes. Instead, when the dust cleared, there ended up being one Democrat and two Republicans. But in another plot twist, one of the Republicans switched his party affiliation from Democrat when he registered to be a candidate. Was he entering the race as a spoiler in an attempt to split the Republican vote? So the bill I voted against will change the rules once again, and mandate that to get the “R” or “D” next to your name, you have to have been a member of the party for at least 90 days. So Chris Anglin, the party-switching candidate, would have nothing next to his name. Subject to Veto Both of these bills will be subject to a veto by Governor Cooper, and there is little doubt that he will use his veto stamp and return the bills to the General Assembly. He has 10 days to do so. So the Special Session will continue in a ghost-like fashion but getting no work done for at least 10 more days. At $50,000 a day, you can see that the cost to the taxpayers could be at least $500,000 dollars. Another problem for the legislators is that they have been pulled away unexpectedly from their jobs and family summer vacations. I am one of the few legislators who has never missed a vote, but I have made arrangements to visit my son and granddaughter in California and might find it difficult to return for an override vote of the governor’s veto. A Political Battleground One of the worst aspects of our current political culture (and there are many) is how badly our judicial system has become a political battleground rather than a battle for the best legal talent. We will be subjected to unrelenting partisan debate surrounding the appointment of the new US Supreme Court nominee over the summer and fall. There will be enormous amounts of cash spent to infuence the confirmation vote in the Senate. An independent judicial system is the bedrock of our democracy, and we as voters need to demand judges unbeholden to political forces and with a strong sense of personal integrity. Once again, thank you for the privilege of serving the citizens of Fairview and beyond, and please contact me if you have any problems with our state government.