News

Amendment language for voter guides set

The Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission met Thursday to finalize language describing proposed constitutional amendments.

The North CarolinaConstitutional Amendments Publication Commission held an emergency session Thursday, the last day available to finalize language describing proposed amendments for voter guides.

The commission consists of three members: Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Attorney General Josh Stein, both Democrats, and Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble, representing the General Assembly.

Their goal: craft descriptions will be distributed through the county-level elections offices and through voter guides mailed to more than four million North Carolina voters.

The commission would have also crafted short captions for each amendment appearing on the ballot this fall, but the GOP-controlled General Assembly seized that authority just earlier this month during an ongoing power struggle with Gov. Roy Cooper and other North Carolina Democrats.

Legislators are being called back to Raleigh for another special session Friday after a three judge panel ruled their ballot language was not a fair representation of the amendments.

Five separate lawsuits over the proposed amendments have to be resolved before the ballots can go before voters.

Earlier this month, the commission met and approved language for the proposed amendments on crime victim protections (HB 551) and hunting and fishing (SB 677).

On Thursday the commission took up language for the proposed amendments on voter ID (HB 1092) and capping the state income tax rate (SB 75).

The two amendments blocked by the three judge panel were not considered by the commission.

Final explanations of the four amendments got final approval Thursday, though Coble repeatedly took issue with language Marshall and Stein suggested. The lines at issue pointed to what the amendments do not tell voters – chiefly, how much implementation might cost and how it would be carried out.

“We have fiscal notes on a lot of things, almost everything we do,” Marshall said in an interview after the meeting. “That might lead some people to think they don’t want that factor known. But also, giving them the benefit of the doubt – they haven’t said what’s going to be required. So, it’s like a cloud – trying to get ahold of it, to know what the cost is going to be. It could be enormous, it could be miniscule. But because we don’t know, it’s impossible to say.”

Stein agreed.

“Most times there’s a constitutional amendment, it speaks for itself,” Stein said. “It will say what it does and the voters will know what the full implications are. Occasionally, the amendment will need more legislation from the General Assembly. And when that happens, what’s usual is the legislature will pass the bill first so that voters actually know the full import of what they’re doing. That’s not the case with the voter identification provision. It just says, ‘The legislature is going to tell us what this means at some point in the future.'”

Coble declined to speak with reporters Thursday, as he did after the commission’s last meeting.

 

News

Lawmakers call special session on amendment language

Legislative leaders are calling the General Assembly back into a special session Friday.

It will be the second special session called to deal with proposed amendments to the state constitution. A three judge panel ruled earlier this week that the ballot descriptions for two of the amendments didn’t give a fair explanation of them to voters. The panel suggested lawmakers re-write them and declined to supervise the process.

Five separate lawsuits have to be resolved before the ballots can go before voters.

On Thursday,  all six living former N.C. Supreme Court Justices added their name to a statement  opposing the amendments. The justices – Rhoda B. Billings, James G. Exum, Henry E. Frye, I. Beverly Lake, Burley B. Mitchell, Jr. and Sarah E. Parker – join all five living former N.C. governors in their opposition.

The statement  criticizes the amendments as overly partisan and a threat to separation of powers.

Policy Watch will update this post as more news of the session unfolds.

News

Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission meeting Thursday

The North Carolina Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission  will hold an emergency meeting Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

The meeting, to be held in the Daniels Auditorium at the N.C. Museum of History,  is to continue the commission’s work in crafting language explaining state constitutional amendments to be on the ballot in November.

The short descriptions will be distributed through the county-level elections offices and through voter guides mailed to more than four million North Carolina voters. The commission would have also crafted short captions for each amendment appearing on the ballot this fall, but the GOP-controlled General Assembly seized that authority just earlier this month during an ongoing power struggle with Gov. Roy Cooper and other North Carolina Democrats.

The commission consists of three members: Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Attorney General Josh Stein, both Democrats, and Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble, representing the General Assembly.

Earlier this month, the commission met and approved language for the proposed amendments on crime victim protections (HB 551) and hunting and fishing (SB 677).

On Thursday the commission will take up language for the proposed amendments on voter ID (HB 1092) and capping the state income tax rate (SB 75).

A three-judge Superior Court panel ruled late Tuesday that proposed amendments on the authority to make board appointments (HB 913) and the selection of judges (SB 814) cannot be included on the ballot in November.

News

UNC leaders: SBI investigating “Silent Sam” toppling

Late Tuesday UNC System Board Chair Harry Smith, UNC System President Margaret Spellings, UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Chair Haywood Cochrane and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt issued a joint statement on the toppling of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument at the university’s Chapel Hill campus.

The statement came after an initial Monday morning statement from Spellings and Smith.

“Since the Confederate Monument was brought down last night, many have questioned how police officers responded to protesters and how the University managed the event,” the university leaders said in a written statement.  “Safety is always paramount, but at no time did the administration direct the officers to allow protesters to topple the monument. During the event, we rely on the experience and judgment of law enforcement to make decisions on the ground, keeping safety as the top priority.”

“Last night’s rally was unlike any previous event on our campus,” the statement went on to say. “This protest was carried out in a highly organized manner and included a number of people unaffiliated with the University. While we respect that protesters have the right to demonstrate, they do not have the right to damage state property.”

“We have asked the SBI to assist the police to fully investigate the incident, and they have agreed,” the statement read. “We do not support lawlessness, and we will use the full breadth of state and University processes to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

“The safety and security of the students and community entrusted to us have been and will remain our top priority,” the statement read. “While we are grateful that no one, including our police officers, was injured during last night’s protest, we will never condone mob actions and always encourage peaceful and respectful demonstrations on our campus.”

This time last year, on August 20, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt forwarded a memo from UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken to UNC Board of Governors.

In the memo, McCracken said he believed Silent Sam, as the only Confederate monument on a UNC campus, is a magnet for “extremist” groups and that students may be caught in the fight between these groups. He also warned that it would only be a matter of time before students tried to remove it themselves. He said the statue poses an “uniquely dangerous situation” and asked for any help possible to “mitigate” it.

The university recently revealed it spent $390,000 last year securing the statue.

News

UNC President, Board of Governors chair: Silent Sam toppling “unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible”

UNC System Board of Governors Chair Harry Smith and UNC System President Margaret Spellings responded Tuesday morning to the toppling of “Silent Sam,” the confederate statue on the Chapel Hill campus.

“We have been in touch with UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Chair Cochrane and Chancellor Folt both last night and this morning about the removal of the Silent Sam statue on UNC-CH’s campus,” Smith and Spellings said in a joint statement. “Campus leadership is in collaboration with campus police, who are pulling together a timeline of the events, reviewing video evidence, and conducting interviews that will inform a full criminal investigation.”

“The safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff are paramount,” the statement read.”And the actions last evening were unacceptable, dangerous, and incomprehensible. We are a nation of laws—and mob rule and the intentional destruction of public property will not be tolerated.”

The toppling of the statue by protesters came after the UNC Board of Governors last month declined to even discuss petitioning the North Carolina Historical Commission to remove it. The statue has been a source of tension and controversy for more than 50 years, with calls to remove it reaching a fever pitch over the last year.

Chancellor Folt released her own statement early Tuesday via Twitter.

 

Students, faculty, staff and community members who have been part of the movement to remove the statue replied to Folt directly on Twitter.

The Undergraduate Executive Branch of the UNC-Chapel Hill Student Government also released their own statement. In it, student leaders called the toppling of the statue the correction of “a moral and historical wrong that needed to be righted if we were ever to move forward as a University.”

“Last night, they tore down Silent Sam,” the statement said of protesters. “They were right to do so.”

Democratic state legislators took to Twitter to say it was a shame action on the statue had not happened sooner and that legislation filed by Rep. Graig Meyer, Rep. Verla Insko and Rep. Graig Meyer that would have moved it was not given a hearing.


Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger released his own statement calling the protesters a “violent mob” and calling for the reestablishment of the rule of law.