Uncategorized

Coming up: Redistricting to take center stage next week

Next week will be big for those keeping track of North Carolina’s racial gerrymandering issues.

To start, the House and Senate Committees on Redistricting will meet jointly at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building in downtown Raleigh.

An agenda has not yet been released, but the committees were selected to redraw the House and Senate maps that were ruled unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The meeting comes one day before a hearing set in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. A three-judge panel will hear from all parties in the racial gerrymandering case, North Carolina v. Covington.

The panel will discuss a timeline for new maps to be drawn and decide whether a special election will be held to remedy the constitutional violations, as well as take up other matters in the case. Each party will be given 90 minutes to argue the issues and may call witnesses.

Witness lists and any further points made via court documents must be filed with the court by the end of the day today.

Attorney General Josh Stein, who is representing both the state of North Carolina and the State Board of Elections, plans to call witness Kim Westbrook Strach, Executive Director of the Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, according to a document filed today.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Greensboro.

Courts & the Law, News

Republican legislative leaders dismiss lawsuit against Cooper over Medicaid expansion

Legislative leaders announced Thursday that they were dismissing their federal lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper because he didn’t follow through on “threats” to expand Medicaid.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said they were told by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that the Governor had not followed through on attempting to expand Medicaid.

“We are pleased Gov. Cooper abandoned his plan to defy state and federal law and unilaterally expand Obamacare in North Carolina, but remain prepared to take swift legal action if he tries to make this unlawful move again,” Berger said in a joint statement with House Speaker Tim Moore.

The 20-page lawsuit was filed in January.

Cooper’s spokesman, Ford Porter responded to the news:

“We’re glad that Republican legislative leaders have dropped their case against bringing health care to millions of North Carolinians. Expanding health care is the right thing to do for North Carolina’s people and our economy, and it would allow tax dollars already being paid by North Carolinians to help right here at home instead of going to other states. Legislators should never have filed this suit in the first place and it’s a shame it took them this long to figure that out.”

Courts & the Law, News

State Supreme Court dismisses Cooper’s request to halt already merged Elections, Ethics Board

Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a press conference.

The state Supreme Court agreed to take on Gov. Roy Cooper’s appeal over the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission merger but it will not grant a temporary stay to halt the new agency from operating.

Newly elected Justice Michael Morgan wrote the order dismissing Cooper’s motion for temporary stay as moot. The court, he wrote, must preserve the status quo during the expedited consideration of the case.

“The status quo as of the date of this order is to be maintained,” Morgan wrote. “Therefore, until further order of this Court, the parties are prohibited from taking further action regarding the unimplemented portions of the act that establishes a new ‘Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.'”

The state’s highest court on Wednesday announced it would expedite Cooper v. Berger, bypassing a review from the State Court of Appeals. The case is set for oral argument at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 28.

The lawsuit is over Senate Bill 68, which merges the functions of the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission, along with campaign finance and lobbying functions.

You can read the court’s order dismissing the motion for temporary stay here.

Cooper’s spokesman, Ford Porter, released the following statement after the dismissal:

“We’re pleased the Supreme Court agrees with Governor Cooper that this legal process needs to be allowed to play out and that members should not be appointed to the proposed new board while that happens. This ruling puts on hold any further actions to merge the elections and ethics boards until these critical issues get decided, and we look forward to making our case on August 28 to stop this backdoor effort to suppress voters.”

Courts & the Law, News

State Supreme Court takes on Cooper’s lawsuit over Board of Elections, Ethics merger

The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to expedite Gov. Roy Cooper’s appeal over the General Assembly’s law merging the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission.

The state’s highest court will hear arguments at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 28 in Cooper v. Berger, et al. The Supreme Court’s decision to take the case bypasses a review by the State Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court has heard the case twice; once ruling mostly in favor of the Governor and once dismissing the case altogether.

Senate Bill 4 was passed during a special session in December, and the three-judge panel struck down much of that law. Instead of appealing their ruling, Republican legislators rewrote the law this session and passed it as SB68, the law the Supreme Court will review.

Both bills abolish the longstanding State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission and merge the two agency’s functions, along with campaign finance and lobbying functions. The difference between the two bills is that the eight-member “bipartisan” board under SB68 would require a five-member quorum (a simple majority) for election issues. SB4 required a six-member quorum. Ethics issues would still require a six-member quorum under the law in SB68.

The other difference is that Cooper will be able to appoint all eight members of the new board with recommendations from the two majority political parties. Members of the new board will be split between Democrats and Republicans. Cooper would not be able to choose the executive director of the Board.

Cooper has not yet appointed members to the new Board.

Courts & the Law, News

State Board of Education will appeal constitutional challenge decision favoring Superintendent

The State Board of Education announced today that it will appeal a court decision handed down last week that allows newly elected Superintendent Mark Johnson to be in control of the state’s public education system.

A three-judge panel issued its ruling Friday that the Board of Education did not meet its burden of proof when arguing that lawmakers were unconstitutional when transferring power from the Board to Johnson.

Bill Cobey, the chairman of the State Board of Education, said earlier this week that he was disappointed about the court’s ruling but couldn’t speak further about it until after the Board’s meeting.

When asked about the appeal, he responded, “I can’t guarantee anything because I’m only first among equals.”

Although the panel ruled in favor of Johnson, it left in place a stay preventing the law from taking effect for 60 days to allow for an appeal.