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Friday roundup: House passes new constitutional amendments; ballot litigation continues

House lawmakers Friday passed two new constitutional amendments after a state court struck their similar proposals from the November ballot.

GOP legislative leaders called a special session Friday with only 17 hours notice. The House voted on both of the constitutional amendment rewrites and the Senate is expected to vote on them Monday.

The body is also appealing the initial court ruling striking the first two amendments from the ballot. If they are successful, those amendments could be placed back on the November ballot and the two rewrites, if passed, could also appear — that would mean voters would be asked about eight total constitutional amendments.

One measure passed Friday was a significantly scaled back version of an amendment that would have transferred gubernatorial appointment power to the legislature for state boards and commissions.

The new amendment, House Bill 4, deals only with enshrining the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement into the Constitution. It reduces the current nine-member board to an even eight members and sets up an appointment process that involves lawmakers and the Governor.

It passed the House chamber 73-33.

The other measure, HB 3, is a very slightly scaled down version of an amendment that deals with the appointment of judicial vacancies. The new amendment still transfers power from the Governor to the General Assembly but it removes a “veto loophole” that would allow lawmakers to pass other bills without gubernatorial approval if they paired them with a vacancy.

It narrowly passed the House chamber with 72-34. Rep John Blust (R-Guilford) was the only Republican who voted the measure down.

Rep. Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland) tried to introduce a bill to require a three-fourth’s vote instead of a three-fifth’s vote to approve a special session. He said lawmakers were abusing their authority to call special sessions. A majority of the chamber, though, voted not to suspend the rules of introducing such a measure so that they could vote on it.

The Senate will return Monday to take up HB 3 and 4, which have been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Rules and Operation at 1 p.m. in room 1027/1128 of the Legislative Building. Committee meetings are open to the public.

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In other legislative news, the appellate process is still underway in the five pending lawsuits that have to be settled within a week.

The latest deadline for the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to begin ballot preparation and printing is Sept. 1.

The state Court of Appeals issued a stay Thursday of the lower court’s order blocking two constitutional amendments from appearing on the ballot, but it also kept the State Board on pause with regard to preparing and printing ballots. It’s expected there will be more rulings from the court Monday.

Judicial candidates Christopher Anglin and Rebecca Edwards each filed requests Friday to have the state Supreme Court intervene in their lawsuits. They both filed lawsuits after lawmakers retroactively enacted a 90-day party registration requirement for judicial candidacy. You can read more about that here.

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