Last week, a panel of Superior Court judges ruled to remove two proposed amendments to the state’s constitution from November’s ballot after they found that the language being used to describe the amendments to voters was misleading.
The state’s GOP-dominated legislature had proposed a total of six constitutional amendments, four of which were challenged in lawsuits filed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Two of those four -- both of which would limit the governor’s power, first by stripping him of his ability to appoint members to hundreds of boards and commissions and then restricting his power to appoint judges to vacant seats -- were ordered to be removed by the panel of judges.
While those Superior Court judges were critical of what they deemed to be misleading language used to describe the proposed amendments on November’s general election ballot, the court order provides the legislature with another opportunity to revise that text.
The legislature, therefore, returned to Raleigh on Friday to make their court-ordered revisions. The House voted in favor of the revised language on Friday and the Senate is now expected to weigh in today ahead of this week’s deadline to submit ballot language to the state elections office.
“It was important that the General Assembly return to address the concerns of the court so these constitutional amendments, which bring accountability to judicial vacancy appointments and establish an independent board to administer ethics and elections, can appear on the November ballot,” Republican House Rules Chairman Rep. David Lewis said in a press release. “We respect the role of the courts and have responded to their ruling, even though we disagree with their decision, and urge the governor to end his latest lawsuit so our state’s election process can proceed without further delay.”
The proposed amendment that would have stripped the governor of his power to make appointments to numerous state boards and commissions has been scaled back and now only includes changes to how members of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement are appointed. The amendment, if approved by voters, would now simply give the legislature the power to appoint eight members to a bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, with four nominations coming from each party.
The amendment that would limit the governor’s power to fill judicial vacancies remains largely unchanged, however, although the revised ballot language has been rewritten to provide a much more thorough explanation of the proposed changes to the constitution. This particular amendment has drawn the ire of the state’s five living former governors, including Jim Martin and Pat McCrory, both of whom are Republicans, as well as the state’s six living Supreme Court Chief Justices.
The panel of judges ruled on two additional proposed amendments, but found that the ballot language used to describe those was not misleading. Both amendments are fairly straight forward, with the first requiring voters to show photo identification and the other lowering the cap on the state’s income tax rate from 10 percent to 7 percent.
Assuming the two revised amendments hold up in court, voters will decide the fate of all six proposed amendments in November. A simple majority vote is all that’s required for any one of the six to pass and become law.