Constitutional amendments to bring legislators back in the fall

By on July 9, 2018

 Picasa 2.0Many General Assembly-watchers were counting down the days until the bi-annual short session was expected to adjourn by the end of June.

But now North Carolina’s legislative body has announced it will reconvene on Nov. 27 to take up unfinished business.

The main focus of the lame duck session, since it will come after Election Day, will be to craft implementing legislation to support any of the five of six proposed amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that will be on the November ballot.

Lawmakers were expected to leave Raleigh around June 15 after they completed adjusting the two-year state government budget.

Instead, the Republican leadership had lawmakers stick around for an additional two weeks to craft the amendment proposals and to override vetoes of other laws by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

One amendment, if passed by voters, is self-implementing and would cap the state’s personal income tax rate at 7 percent.

Gerry Cohen who served as the General Assembly’s director of Legislative Drafting for 30 years tweeted and told N.C. Policy Watch that of the last 16 proposed amendments to the state’s Constitution, 13 had implementing legislation in the same bill, one relied on existing statutes and one didn’t need implementing statutes.

Only one amendment didn’t have the implementing legislation included before the referendum.

Until those laws are written and passed, voters will have to decide whether to cast their ballots for the proverbial pig-in-a-poke without knowing how they will be interpreted or what the impacts may be.

State law requires language accompanying each amendment to help clarify the impact or intentions.

The language used in the bills passed must be reviewed by the Constitutional Amendments Publication Committee, which is comprised of Attorney General Josh Stein, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, and Paul Coble, the current Legislative Services director of the General Assembly.

Stein and Marshall are Democrats, while Coble is a former mayor of Raleigh and a Republican.

According to law, the committee must “prepare an explanation of the amendment, revision or new constitution in simple and commonly used language.

“The explanation shall include a short caption reflecting the contents, that shall not include a numerical or other reference of order, to be used on the ballot and the printed summary.”

That language must be available 75 days before the election and must win approval of at least two of the three committee members.

The proposed amendments include:
HB 1092 puts Voter ID back on the list of issues that have divided the parties. The last attempt by the legislators to impose a voter ID mandate was struck down by the courts, which determined that it was deemed to target African-American voters.

House Bill 913 seeks to change the makeup of the elections and ethics board and to change the appointment control of state boards and commissions.

If voted into the Constitution, this amendment would side-step the N.C. Supreme Court ruling that the current Constitution places the authority with the governor to control the Elections and Ethics board by creating a new system for the General Assembly to appoint an eight-member board, four from each major party.

The amendment also would shift appointing power from the governor to the General Assembly, potentially eroding the separation of power between the legislative, judicial and executive branches.

Senate Bill 75 would place an income tax cap in the Constitution. Currently, there is a 10 percent cap, but if the amendment is approved by voters, that would drop to 7 percent.

Initially, the Senate version would have dipped the rate down to 5.5 percent, but House members were concerned that if unforeseen circumstances, such as a recession or natural disaster hit, there would not be enough leeway to manage the increased expenses.

HB 551 would expand victims’ rights.

That would include notification of criminal proceedings against the accused perpetrator; the right of the victim to speak at all hearings; full and timely restitution; the right to be reasonably protected from th defendant; prompt conclusion of the case; and the right to petition the court to enforce the provisions.

SB 677 would put the public’s right to fish and hunt in the Constitution.

This is a National Rifle Association-supported bill and the impacts could be unexpected. Initially, commercial fishing was included as a right but was removed as the bill wound its way through the process.

If it becomes Constitutional law, the bill could throw open the door to lawsuits prompted by allowing full hunting on Sunday beyond the current limits, including waterfowl.

SB 814 would place a merit system for filling judicial vacancies in the Constitution.

It would move appointing power from the governor to the Judicial Merit Commission, which would develop a list of possible candidates for the General Assembly to consider. The legislative body would pick two names to be forwarded to the governor for consideration.

If a vacancy occurs right before an election, the chief justice of the Supreme Court would name the replacement.

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  • Seal

    I’m being oppressed !!!! I have to present an ID to Get a job, Cash a check, Operate a vehicle, See a doctor, Board a plane and see what happens if law enforcement ask for one and you refuse to present one or don’t have one !!!

    Monday, Jul 9 @ 9:54 am
  • Nick

    But really why are we wasting our time? As has been demonstrated previously, any constitutional change we might vote for will be opposed by someone somewhere who will find themselves an activist judge and have it struck down.

    Monday, Jul 9 @ 1:47 pm
  • Browny Douglas

    The most Patriotic duty an American has is to vote. As to those that disagree with the positive of having voter ID in N C I say this. They, for some reason or another, are not stringently exercising their God given ability to CORRECTLY reason right from wrong.
    Browny Douglas

    Monday, Jul 9 @ 5:46 pm
  • Paul

    Brownie & Nick,
    You miss the point. The voter ID law was cleverly crafted to prevent
    certain groups of people from access to their right to vote. Not everyone has a drivers license or the ability to take time off work to jump through the hoops necessary to get an alternate ID. My mother’s in a nursing home and has not driven in years. Do you really think people will risk jail time to cast an illegal ballot?
    As far as “activist judges”—the Appeals court ruled the law unconstitutional and the US Supeme Court refused to take up the case, affirming their ruling.

    Tuesday, Jul 10 @ 2:10 pm
  • Seal

    The voter ID law is crafted to do one thing Paul !!! Its to prevent non citizens from voting !!! And your not going to tell me that its that difficult to obtain a proper ID !!!! A NC drivers license or ID is valid for four years ,you think one day off from work every four years is to stiff !!! and for examples like your mother if you look at an absentee ballot there are places for signatures to validated whom she is in such a circumstance !!! So don’t give us that BS that it was “Crafted to prevent certain groups of people to their right to vote ” !!!

    Tuesday, Jul 10 @ 7:23 pm
  • Browny Douglas

    With regards to SB 677, the aged attempt by the Coastal CONservation Association to eliminate commercial fishing in NC reeks. It is an affront to free market enterprise. To eliminate NC’s participation in the catch and distribution of FRESH seafood doesn’t sound very economically bright to me. For sure if the CCA’S effort to do so ever becomes reality the word FRESH would rightfully need to be omitted from all restaurant advertisements along the entire coastline.

    Wednesday, Jul 11 @ 12:04 am
  • Paul

    There is no evidence that “illegals” are voting. And both the Appellate Court and the US Supreme Court agreed that NC’s law disenfranchised citizen voters.
    While I respect your opinion let’s stick with the facts.

    Wednesday, Jul 11 @ 7:46 am
  • Hank Hill

    Paul…… Please tell us which groups of people that would be denied access to be able to vote. Also, you did know that FREE IDs were available to those that could not afford them or to those that didn`t have a need for a drivers license?? Does your mother have any form of govt ID???? If you were to side with the left and a certain race could not afford an ID I would have to say that you`re sadly misinformed and bigoted. There is NO race in the US that is excluded from anything, There is NO GROUP that is excluded from getting an ID. I am guessing that you or someone else may have the Power of Attorney which means that you could get it for her or that you could get a social worker to ask an agency to help out. To put your mother or someone like her as an example is either shameful or lazy because it`s not the truth!

    Wednesday, Jul 11 @ 1:36 pm
  • Seal

    @@@@@@ Paul !!!!!
    If there is no evidence of Illegals (And by the way Im glad you called them for what they are) voting, and all the easy options that are out there to obtain an ID, Whats your problem ??? And we all know what it is and by the way its ,VOTES !!!!!

    Wednesday, Jul 11 @ 7:48 pm
  • Browny Douglas

    With regards to my afore comment. After talking to more knowledgeable individuals than myself about the removal of commercial fishing from the amendment language, I acknowledge that the “right to fish” is intended to umbrella all legal methods of taking fish whether recreational or commercial. I hold trust that history will show this to have been an honored intent.
    Browny Douglas

    Wednesday, Jul 11 @ 7:58 pm
  • dave

    Seal: You have neither the educational background or intelligence to understand voter suppression. Illegal voting has been proven to be about 0.0004% Its not my fault you didn’t attend history class.
    Hank Hill: Well, your name speaks for itself. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

    Thursday, Jul 12 @ 8:29 am
  • Seal

    As usual you Dims show how ignorant you are, you know nothing about me or my academic back ground which by the way includes “Political Science” !
    And the labeling of voter ID as “Suppression” is without warrant !!!
    So you and Paul need to get you lazy excuse filled constituents off their rears and get an ID or dont complain !!!

    Thursday, Jul 12 @ 9:57 am
  • dave

    @ Seal. If you do in fact have some “academic background”, I’d ask for your money back. If you did indeed “graduate”, you were most likely in the bottom half of your class. If people like you want to place restrictions on voting, how about requiring everyone to have at least a 4 yr degree from an accredited brick and mortar American college and have at least a B in History 103 and 104. Like I said, you just don’t get it.

    Thursday, Jul 12 @ 2:24 pm
  • WombatNC

    The voter ID amendment is not necessary and is unconstitutional according to the Supreme Court – see links below:
    AND, yes, it is a form of voter suppression; why else, based on the evidence, would the GOP led General Assembly present it. The amendment would target the poor and the elderly. From my studies on the US and State constitutions, based on past history, we should be focusing on making voting easier and more efficient, than what is being proposed?
    In addition, the cap on income tax at 7% as a constitutional amendment is ludicrous! Talk about a gift to their wealthy campaign contributors; this would be they’re desert forever. When you constitutionalize something, it’s pretty hard to change it. What happens if this amendment is approved and we go through another recession or depression (which we will)? I guess, for the sake of the wealthy, we deprive our citizens of an education, health care, infrastructure, etc..
    Also, just because we have a Democratic governor at this time (Bathroom bill) doesn’t mean that will last forever. Republicans may regret the diminishing of the executives powers once those tables are turned.
    Hunting and fishing as a constitutional right?! Yeeeeeha! Can you say,”Tragedy of the Commons”!! Look it up
    Victims rights I’m ok with.

    Friday, Jul 13 @ 9:17 am
  • Seal

    Typical 3rd grade Dim response, proof you cant fix stupid, and above all dont argue with it !!!

    Friday, Jul 13 @ 9:32 am
  • lol

    @ Seal
    You’re right you can’t fix stupid. You are proof of that with your lame juvenile responses.

    Friday, Jul 13 @ 5:53 pm
  • Seal

    I’m not going to resort to immature insults, or argue with stupid !!!
    But on election day when we take back another piece of our country from you. I’ll drop you a line !!!

    Saturday, Jul 14 @ 2:11 pm
  • Jerry Schill

    The explanation of S-677 regarding the amendment to establish a right to hunt and fish, is incorrect. Yes, the Senate did remove “commercial activities” from those protections, but the House version put it back and the Senate concurred.

    Tuesday, Jul 17 @ 6:41 am
  • Browny Douglas

    Thank you Jerry Schill. Glad to here that.

    Browny Douglas

    Tuesday, Jul 17 @ 1:22 pm
  • Sandy Ross

    Jerry, I think you must be looking at the wrong version of the bill. Because the General Assembly refused to write the implementing bill language as is ordinarily done when writing the amendment before the vote in the general election, there are many ways that they can interpret it when they come back in November. “Harvest” is generally used to describe gathering crops that are planted, not wildlife. Stretching it might allow it to be used for marine aquaculture. If it is interpreted to mean commercial fishing activity then it would raise the question of allowing commercial fowling and other activities. Here is a link to the correct version that is now in statute.

    Wednesday, Jul 18 @ 11:19 am