MVA Monitor – June 22

Last week, the General Assembly wrapped up work on most public bills for the year. This week, the focus of the General Assembly fell on three types of proposals – local bills, bills proposing amendments to the state constitution, and consideration of bills vetoed by the governor. After last week’s push by the legislature to dispose of all public bills, Gov. Roy Cooper has nearly 80 bills on his desk to review for signature or veto. The General Assembly expects to finish its work and adjourn for the year by the end of next week.

Issue Insights

State and Legislative Issues

Gerrymandering Case

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States issued decisions in two cases involving alleged partisan gerrymandering, but failed to address the issue directly in either case. In a case involving Wisconsin’s legislative redistricting, the Supreme Court found that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate standing to bring the case. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower court to allow plaintiffs an opportunity to establish standing. In a case involving Maryland’s Congressional redistricting, the Supreme Court essentially found that the immediate relief afforded by a lower court was not warranted and sent the case back to the lower court for a more in-depth review. A case that alleges North Carolina’s 2016 Congressional redistricting resulted in an impermissible partisan gerrymander is currently before the Supreme Court. Some legal experts have argued that the North Carolina case presents neither of the problems cited by the Supreme Court in the Wisconsin and Maryland cases and could therefore become the vehicle for addressing the substantive issue.

Is NC partisan gerrymander case up next after Supreme Court ‘punts’ on Wisconsin and Maryland? (Raleigh News & Observer)

Veto Overrides

The General Assembly overrode two more vetoes by Gov. Cooper this week with party line votes in both chambers. Senate Bill 486, The Elections Security and Transparency Act, makes various changes to elections laws in the state. These include a requirement for criminal background checks for election workers and probating candidates from running on a third party ticket if they previously lost in the primary. Senate Bill 757, Various Court District Changes, makes changes to judicial districts in Mecklenburg and Wake counties.

Vetoes on judicial, elections bills fall (WRAL)

Republicans finish override on 2 Cooper election-bill vetoes (Associated Press)

Constitutional Amendments

This week the General Assembly advanced several bills that would place amendments to the State Constitution on the ballot in November 2018. 

Senate Bill 75 would authorize an amendment to lower the current State Constitutional cap on income tax rates from 10 percent to 5.5 percent (slightly above the current personal income tax rate of 5.499 percent). The bill, which passed the Senate last year, went through the House Rules Committee on Wednesday. A vote of the full House is expected next week. 

The House Rules Committee approved House Bill 1092 along a party-line vote. That bill would authorize a constitutional amendment requiring voters to show some form of photo identification before voting in person. As with Senate Bill 75, a vote of the full House is expected next week. 

In the other chamber, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard discussion on two separate bills authorizing Constitutional amendments, but took no action on either. House Bill 551 proposes a constitutional amendment to strengthen crime victims’ rights. That bill passed the House with strong bi-partisan support in 2017. Senate Bill 814 would authorize a constitutional amendment to change the manner in which judicial vacancies are filled. Currently the Governor has authority to appoint individuals to fill those vacancies. Under the amendment proposed by Senate Bill 814, the Governor would be limited to choosing between two individuals nominated by the General Assembly for appointment. If the Governor failed to appoint one of the two nominees within 10 days, the General Assembly would then have the right to fill the vacancy.

Bills authorizing constitutional amendments must be approved by an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the membership of each chamber (72 House members and 30 Senate members). If the bill contains no other provisions, it is not subject to veto by the governor. In order for a constitutional amendment to become effective, it must be approved by a majority of the State’s voters in an election.

Proposed income tax cap amendment advances in House (WRAL)

Thursday Wrap: A one, and a two, and a three (WRAL)

Local Issues – Charlotte

Mecklenburg County Budget

Following last week’s straw vote, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners this week voted to approve the $1.7 billion county budget, including a property tax hike of three quarters of a penny. The budget plan provides $31 million for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and supplemental teacher pay.

Mecklenburg County Commissioners Approve $1.7 Billion Budget (WFAE)

News Roundup