Politics & Government

Republicans advance new versions of NC constitutional amendments

All five of NC’s living former governors unite against constitutional amendments

"Don't hijack our constitution," said Pat McCrory at a gathering of all five of NC's living former governors at the old Capitol on Monday. The group convened to warn voters about constitutional amendments that would shift power to the legislature
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"Don't hijack our constitution," said Pat McCrory at a gathering of all five of NC's living former governors at the old Capitol on Monday. The group convened to warn voters about constitutional amendments that would shift power to the legislature

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North Carolina constitutional amendments

Coverage from The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun of the constitutional amendments you’ll vote on in the November 2018 elections.

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Republican lawmakers rushed back to work Friday to retool two constitutional amendments that a court ordered removed from fall ballots because judges said the language would mislead voters.

A far-reaching proposal that would have stripped governors of their power to appoint members to hundreds of boards and commissions was whittled down to include changes only to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The House passed it 73-33.

The second proposed amendment, which would limit governors’ powers in appointing judges and justices to vacant seats, remains largely unchanged. But the legislature added a clause that would make it clear that the legislature cannot avoid a governor’s veto by attaching unrelated legislation to a bill on judicial appointments. The rewritten ballot language has a much more expansive explanation of the proposed changes. The House passed it with no votes to spare, 72-34.

Proposed constitutional changes need 72 House votes and 30 Senate votes to make it to the ballot. The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday.

The Republican-controlled legislature is working under a tight deadline to get ballot language to the state elections office in a week.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the state NAACP sued over these two amendments, contending that the language explaining them that voters would see on ballot was misleading and prejudicial.

A panel of Superior Court judges agreed, and ordered the proposed amendments removed from the ballot. The court order also gave legislators a chance to make changes.

The revised amendments cleared up the language that concerned the judges, said House Speaker Tim Moore.

“Allow the voters of the state to decide this fall whether they want to make these changes,” he said.

Republicans in the legislature want six proposed constitutional amendments for the fall ballot.

The state’s five living former governors, Democrats and Republicans, opposed previous versions of the two amendments. Former Govs. Pat McCrory and Jim Martin, both Republicans, sent a letter to Republican legislators early Friday asking them to withdraw the two amendments from the ballot, saying it would be the “statesmanlike course.”

Later, Martin endorsed the re-written amendment on the elections board. But Martin remained critical of the amendment on judicial selection.

In a news conference Friday morning, Sen. Dan Blue, the leader of Senate Democrats, said Republicans are more interested in power than policy.

“Power-grab amendments, that’s what this is about,” said Blue, noting this is the seventh special legislative session since early 2016. “An outrageous amount of this General Assembly’s time and resources have been spent circumventing the law and rigging, and trying to rig the system,” Blue said.

During the House debate, the Republican majority rejected suggested changes from Rep. Darren Jackson, the Democratic leader from Wake County

Jackson wanted to make it clear on the ballot that the amendment would change the makeup of the elections board, giving it eight members rather than nine. He warned that a board with an even number would be hopelessly deadlocked on critical ethics and voting issues. And Jackson questioned whether the amendment on judicial appointments is part of a plan to have Republican legislators add more Republicans to the state Supreme Court, depending on the results of this fall’s Supreme Court election.

“I think court packing is a very real concern,” Jackson said in an interview.

Moore said Republicans are not planning to pack the court. “That is absolutely not our intention,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is put a stop-gap in place and a safeguard in place.”

The NC legislature is placing six constitutional amendments on the fall ballot. Here's a look at what North Carolinians will be voting on.

Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer contributed.
Bonner: 919-829-4821; @Lynn_Bonner
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