The North Carolina legislature has proposed six constitutional amendments that could be decided by the state’s voters in November.
Before any potential amendment can reach the ballot, the proposed legislation must receive approval from three-fifths of both the House and Senate. In November, a simple majority vote would decide the fate of each proposal.
On Monday, a proposal to maintain hunting and fishing rights in the state constitution won final legislative approval to appear on this year’s ballot. The bill states that “public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife,” and the right to do so is subject only to certain wildlife conservation and resource management limitations.
On Tuesday, two more proposed amendments to the state constitution gained approval from the House and will now await votes in the Senate.
The first, a proposal that would require voter identification at the polls, is the seventh bill filed by House Speaker Tim Moore on the matter since his election in 2002. His most recent attempt in 2013 was shot down by a panel of federal judges who wrote in 2016 that the photo identification requirement targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.”
To date, the NAACP has threatened to sue the state over the controversial proposal and Color of Change, a civil rights advocacy group, has launched a “reject racism” campaign to dissuade Amazon and Apple from opening its East Coast headquarters in North Carolina if the amendment reaches the ballot.
Supporters of the bill argue that voter identification requirements are necessary to combat fraud at the polls. Under current law, North Carolina voters give their name and residential address for election officials to verify their identity.
Currently, there are 34 other states that require some form of voter identification and North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast that does not do so.
The second proposed amendment approved by the House on Tuesday would strip the governor of his power to appoint members of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, currently appoints all nine members, but the amendment would reduce the membership to eight -- four Democrats and four Republicans -- all of whom would be nominated by the House speaker and Senate leader.
While Democrats have characterized the move as a “power grab,” Republican supporters tout the bill as an effort to remove partisanship from the oversight of elections, ethics and lobbying law in North Carolina.
A third constitutional amendment that was scheduled for a vote in the House on Tuesday that was ultimately delayed proposes to cap the state income tax rate at 5.5 percent. The bill, which passed through the Senate earlier this year, would substantially lower the current threshold of 10 percent. The state income tax rate currently checks in at 5.499 percent, but will drop to 5.25 percent in the next fiscal year.
Republican leaders argue that lowering the income tax cap will force the legislature to remain fiscally responsible, but critics of the bill say that the move will shift the financial burden to local governments during trying times.
The two remaining constitutional amendments involve how the state’s judicial vacancies are filled and rights for victims of felony crimes.
Last week, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger rolled out a plan that would limit the governor’s power when filling the vacancy that results when a judge resigns, retires or is forced out prior to the expiration of their term. The bill proposes a nine-member commission, whose members would be appointed by the legislature, that would evaluate a list of candidates and pass its findings to the General Assembly, which would then narrow the list to two names for the governor to choose from.
The final proposed amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, passed through the House last year and was recently altered during review from the Senate. Marsy’s Law includes a list of victim’s rights that is more expansive than what’s already included in the state constitution and is something that is being pursued in multiple states.
Ultimately, the amendment would allow victims of crimes equivalent to or more severe than felony property crimes the right to receive notice of court proceedings, the right to be present at any proceeding and to be heard at some stages of the legal process and the right to “reasonably confer” with the prosecutor in the case. The law is named for Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered in California in 1983, whose family encountered her accused murderer in the grocery after he was released from custody with no notice given to the family.
Any proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that receives three-fifths approval in both legislative chambers must receive majority approval from North Carolina voters in November before becoming law.