The N.C. General Assembly convenes for the third time this year on September 12, after a several-week summer hiatus. The primary reasons stated for this second special session (the first involved redistricting and gubernatorial veto overrides) include dealing with proposed constitutional amendments and legislation relating to election laws. That would include two particularly contentious pieces of legislation: the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage in the state (HB 777), and another press to circumvent the governor’s veto of HB 351 in order to require photo ID for voters in the state.
And although this special session is planned to be only four to five days long, there is the possibility of a third special session later in the fall if the state’s redistricting plan doesn’t pass federal muster. The costs of reconvening the budget-conscious Legislature are estimated to be $50,000 per day, according to the Gov. Bev Perdue’s website.
Meanwhile, the legislative doors will be wide open mid-September to take action on a number of constitutional amendments filed this session. In addition to the amendment to provide a constitutional definition of marriage as “the union of one man and one woman at one time,” there are proposals to limit legislators to four consecutive terms; limit terms for the speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate to two legislative general assemblies; require a three-fifths vote of the General Assembly to levy taxes; and establish a constitutional limit to general fund expenditures — among other proposals (see below).
Constitutional amendments must pass in the legislature by a three-fifths majority in both houses, and then must receive a majority of the popular vote in the following general election. Any amendments approved now by the Legislature would be voted on by the general electorate in 2012.
A little WNC sunshine
Two members of the WNC legislative delegation have received the 2011 Sunshine Award from Democracy NC: Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville and Republican Rep. David Guice of Brevard. The award went to 13 Republicans and 9 Democrats this year who turned in “superior” reports about who gave them campaign donations and how the money was spent. Each winner filed his or her 2009-2010 campaign report on time and in an accessible format; identified the purpose of 99 percent of their expense items over $50; filed 48-hour reports for large donations received shortly before the November election; and submitted electronic reports for receipts of more than $100,000.
“At a time of intense partisan wrangling, it’s great to see so many legislators across ideological and party lines who respect the public’s right to know how money flows during elections,” said Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan organization, in a website statement.
by Nelda Holder, contributing editor
Constitutional amendment bills under consideration this session include:
HB 61 (Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits): Limits terms of speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate to two legislative general assemblies. WNC co-sponsors: Republican Reps. Philip Frye (Avery/Caldwell/Mitchell/Yancey), David Guice (Henderson/Polk/Transylvania), Chuck McGrady (Henderson).
HB 158 (Limit Legislators to Four Consecutive Terms): No person will be eligible for more than four consecutive terms in the House or Senate. (Filling a vacancy constitutes a “term.”) No WNC co-sponsors.
HB 188 (Taxpayer Bill of Rights): Establishes a constitutional limit to general fund expenditures. WNC co-sponsors: Republican Reps. Frye, Tim Moffitt (Buncombe), Roger West (Cherokee/Clay/ Graham/Macon).
HB 641 (Education Governance Amendment): Increases the size and composition of the State Board of Education; changes include replacing the lieutenant governor as a board member with the president of the Senate, and adding three members appointed by the House and three members appointed by the Senate. WNC primary sponsor, Guice.
HB 777/SB 106 (Defense of Marriage): Provides that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman at one time” and that “no other relationship shall be recognized as legally valid by the state.” WNC co-sponsors: Reps. Frye, Guice, West; Republican Sens. Tom Apodaca (Buncombe/Henderson/Polk), Jim Davis (Cherokee/Clay/Graham/Haywood/Jackson/Macon/Swain/Transylvania), Ralph Hice (Avery/Haywood/Madison/McDowell/Mitchell/Yancey).
HB 784 (Three-fifths Vote fo Levy Taxes): Requires a three-fifths vote for the General Assembly to levy taxes. WNC co-sponsor, Moffitt.
HB 800: (Preserving the Right to Secret Ballot): Guarantees a right to secret ballot voting for authorization of employee representation by a labor union. WNC primary sponsor: Moffitt.
HB 823 (Governance of Dept. of Public Instruction): Makes the superintendent of public instruction a member of the State Board of Education and requires the superintendent to make all state-level appointments necessary; adds at-large member to the board and requires all at-large appointments be made by legislature; requires governor to appoint chair. WNC co-sponsor: Rep. Moffitt.
HB 913 (State Savings Fund): Establishes a state savings account that could only be used to offset a decrease in annual revenue or make one-time outlays for capital projects. No WNC co-sponsors.
SB 591 (Horton Independent Redistricting Commission): Establishes the Hamilton C. Horton Jr. Independent Redistricting Commission. No WNC co-sponsors.