RALEIGH — Two proposed state constitutional amendments dealing with transferring power away from the executive office have been rewritten by the North Carolina General Assembly.
The rewriting comes after a three-judge panel said the two questions were misleading in a Tuesday, Aug. 21, ruling. The two questions deal with changing the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement appointment power from the governor to the state legislature and allowing a “nonpartisan selection commission” under the state legislature to review judicial vacancies, a power that currently resides with the governor.
The House passed the two bills on Friday and the Senate concurred on Monday. All votes were along party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats against. The bills don’t need the governor’s signature to become law as they deal with state constitutional questions.
The re-written state elections and ethics questions will now will state “Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the constitution to administer ethics and elections law.” with “for” and “against” as the two options.
The judicial question will read “Constitutional amendment to change the process for filling judicial vacancies that occur between judicial elections from a process in which the governor has sole appointment power to a process in which the people of the state nominate individuals to fill vacancies by way of a commission comprised of appointees made by the judicial, executive and legislative branches charged with making recommendations to the legislature as to which nominees are deemed qualified; then the legislature will recommend at least two nominees to the governor via legislative action not subject to gubernatorial veto; and the governor will appoint judges from among these nominees,” with “for” and “against” as the two options.
After the new laws were passed, Gov. Roy Cooper promised to take the new question rewrites to court again, saying the bills “erode checks and balances in our state’s constitution.”
The original lawsuit regarding four of the questions was brought by Gov. Roy Cooper, Southern Environmental Law Center, North Carolina NAACP, Clean Air Carolina and Forward Justice against Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly leaders House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger.
The lawsuit challenged the original writing of the two constitutional questions already mentioned, plus questions mandating voters to provide a photo ID prior to voting and changing the constitutional cap on the maximum allowed rate of tax on incomes from 10 to 7 percent.
While the questions on the state elections board and judicial appointments were found to be “misleading” by a three-judge panel on Tuesday, Aug. 21, the questions regarding income tax cap and photo ID were found to be OK. All sides appealed the ruling to the N.C. Supreme Court.
The printing of ballots are delayed until the appeal is heard, the three-judge panel said on Aug. 14, which could affect the planned start of absentee voting on Sept. 7.