Republican Senators touted their bipartisan effort bill Thursday morning as a way for both parties to work together, but brushed off Democrat Senators’ requests to add an amendment to create a bipartisan redistricting committee.
- Create a new, bipartisan agency: the Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement that consolidates elections, campaign finance, lobbying and ethics.
- Reestablish partisan elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
- Modify the appellate court process.
- Allow outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory to fill a vacancy on the Industrial Commission.
The bill was discussed at a nearly two-hour committee meeting Thursday. Democrats didn’t oppose the bill in its entirety and seemed to like the idea of a bipartisan Board of Elections, but expressed concern about the timing of the bill and said they would prefer to work on it in the long session.
Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr., D-Durham, Granville, said the independent Board of Elections had been around a long time and it appeared the only reason to move on the bill now was political in nature, to take away an opportunity for incoming Gov.-elect Roy Cooper. He also asked why there wasn’t anything in the bill about bipartisan redistricting after Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union) told the group the bill would be one step toward that goal.
“You don’t eat a steak in one bite,” Tucker replied, adding that he wouldn’t have objections to working on something regarding bipartisan redistricting in the future but that there wasn’t enough time in the special session to do so.
Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Bertie, Chowan, Edgecombe, Hertford, Martin, Northampton, Terrell and Washington, asked to introduce an amendment to add a bipartisan redistricting committee. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, asked her to wait until later. She did, and the amendment was promptly voted against with little discussion.
“This would not be the appropriate time for this particular amendment,” Rucho said.
The group also discussed the other parts of Senate Bill 4, with Democrats again questioning the timing of it all, and Republicans insisting there were good reasons behind everything.
“There is no other time to run this,” said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford and Yancey. “It’s a great piece of legislation and I think people are just grasping at straws to see what the opposition is.”
Sen. Jane Smith, D-Columbus and Robeson, said the legislation seemed drastic to pass in such a short amount of time, and that she was concerned this was all being done in a special session that all legislators were not even aware was going to happen.
McKissick told Republicans that if there was more willingness to work together, as opposed to having been excluded from the process to begin with, there may be a different tone moving forward.
The bill moved forward to the Senate Finance Committee, where it is currently being discussed. There is no fiscal note attached to the bill, so it is unclear how much it would cost taxpayers. A fiscal note was requested at the finance meeting, but Senators said they would not hold up the bill if the note was not available in time.