In the face of state efforts to change how they’re elected, Wake County commissioners agreed this week to form a citizens committee to get public feedback on the issue of voter representation.
The committee, which could have as many as 35 members, would look at issues such as how Wake commissioners are elected and whether some parts of the county are under-represented. Commissioners say they’re hoping the State House will hold off on acting on Senate Bill 181 to give time for the new committee to study the topic.
Senate Bill 181, introduced by Republican Chad Barefoot of Wake Forest, would increase the number of commissioners but have them run only in regional districts instead of countywide. Before the bill was passed in the Senate last week, Republican lawmakers rejected a Democratic-backed measure to put the election change on the ballot in Wake County.
“The people deserve to have a voice, and we should hear what they have to say,” said James West, a Democrat who chairs the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
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The committee would include the mayors of all 12 municipalities, a designee for each of the 16 House and Senate members whose districts are in Wake County, and members of the public appointed by the seven commissioners.
Monday’s meeting was only a work session so the official vote on forming the committee and appointing the members will take place April 6. A concern raised by some commissioners is whether the House will have approved the bill by then.
Commissioners were told that former Sen. Richard Stevens, the county’s registered lobbyist, is working with the House leadership and the Wake County delegation to try to slow the bill down to give more time for public input.
Republican lawmakers have cited as reasons for the bill that five of the seven commissioners live in Raleigh, which they say means rural areas are under-represented. Democratic lawmakers have charged the bill is political payback for Republicans being swept off the Wake board.
“I believe very strongly that this is not indicative of the will of the people,” said commissioner Jessica Holmes. “It’s indicative of Sen. Chad Barefoot and some of the Wake delegation that is simply upset that their candidates lost. It’s purely partisan. It’s purely politics.”
Orange to fight marriage bill
Orange County leaders urged state legislators this week to reject a bill exempting magistrates from marrying same-sex couples but said they are ready to fight if it becomes law.
The bill also would apply to register of deeds employees who object to providing a marriage license to same-sex couples on religious grounds. Employees seeking the exemption would not be allowed to perform any wedding duties for at least six months.
The state Senate passed the bill Feb. 25 in a 32-16 vote. It is now being reviewed by the state House Judiciary Committee.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday that directs the county manager and county attorney to work with other governments and participate in any legal challenges. County staff would discuss the issue with commissioners before taking any action.
“What we have learned is that the only check apparently on this legislature is litigation,” said commissioner Mark Dorosin, who proposed the resolution.
▪ Gov. Pat McCrory will be the keynote speaker at the Wake Republican Party County Convention on Tuesday in the Kerr Scott Building at the N.C. State Fairgrounds. Doors open at 5 p.m., meeting begins at 7 p.m. GOP activists from the county’s 200 precincts will meet to begin selecting leaders, plan for upcoming elections and hear from speakers including elected officials.
▪ Lynn Shoemaker of Women AdvanceNCe, an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of women and families, will speak to the Democratic Women of Wake County on Thursday at NCSU University Club, 4200 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. Bar opens at 5:30 p.m. and the buffet line at 6:30 p.m.; program begins at 7 p.m. Free, though dinner is $20. For dinner reservations, contact Cindy Sinkez at 919-319-8375 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, March 23.
Compiled by T. Keung Hui and Tammy Grubb
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