Following the House vote last Friday, the Senate returned to Raleigh on Monday to vote on House Bill 3 and House Bill 4, which rewrite two of the six constitutional amendments appearing on the ballot this November. The legislature returned for the special session after a three-judge panel deemed the initial descriptions misleading and not fit to appear on the ballot. Both bills passed through the Senate with votes mostly among party lines.
The House approved the rewritten language on Friday. Constitutional amendments cannot be vetoed by the Governor. The rewritten language will appear on the ballot for the voters to decide in November. Governor Cooper attempted to take further legal action against the amendments but his request to hear a challenge on the rewritten amendments was denied by the state Supreme Court.
Federal Court rules NC Congressional Districts Unconstitutional
A federal three-judge panel ruled 12 of the 13 congressional districts in North Carolina unconstitutionally drawn due to excess partisanship. The ruling comes less than 75 days from the election, leaving congressional districts vulnerable to change yet again.
The court leaves legislative leaders with the possibility of having to redraw the maps by mid-September to be used in November’s elections. The maps were redrawn in 2016 after the court found that districts were drawn with excessive racial bias. The current ruling also affects the ballots that will be used for the general election.
The primary winners from the spring election may be in jeopardy since the districts they ran in are now null and void.
The already controversial constitutional amendments combined with this ruling will put a hold on the printing of ballots for now. The legislature and State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement are now working on a tight set of deadlines. If the court ruling is not stayed, the legislature would have until September 17 to have a new congressional map enacted.
Subcommittees Appointed to look into Disaster Relief and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Fund
The Joint Legislative Commission on Government Operations met this week with only two items on the agenda: the delays in the ongoing response to the devastation left over from Hurricane Matthew in eastern North Carolina, and the so-called “slush fund” paid by companies involved in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to the state, over which Governor Cooper was given control. Special subcommittees were appointed to look into both issues with a directive to pursue the issues “wherever the facts may lead.”
It has been two years since Hurricane Matthew ravaged much of eastern North Carolina and still many residents are homeless and jobless with no relief in sights. Rep. John Bell (R - Wayne), Rep. Brenden Jones (R - Bladen), and Sen. Danny Britt (R - Robeson) gave presentations to the committee on how their districts are progressing and what their constituents have suffered as a result of the hurricane. The special subcommittee will look into why federal funds have been allocated for relief but the vast majority have not yet been distributed to residents. It will also look into how vendors were selected and explore ways to expedite the distribution of funds.
House Select Committee on School Safety
The House Select Committee on School Safety conducted the first of six off-campus meetings this week in Charlotte. The committee, which was formed in response to the spike in school shootings, looks at both the physical safety of schools and the mental health of students and staff.
The committee discussed allocating additional funds for security cameras for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). Town of Matthews Commissioner Kress Query told the committee that CMS may not agree with any directive given to them by the committee. Query said that CMS often turns down aid offered to them by the Town of Matthews.