Find the 4th NC NOW legislative update for the 2019 Long session atNorth Carolina NOW Legislative Update #4.25 February 2019.
[The week ending Feb 22, 2019,] the focus was on redistricting. Republicans decided not to appeal a court ruling that they violated the North Carolina constitution when they redrew four Wake County legislative districts in 2017. The state constitution stipulates that legislative districts must be redrawn after the decennial census. See: https://www.wral.com/republicans-won-t-appeal-ruling-striking-down-4-districts/18195577/.
A bill with bipartisan support( HB140, FAIR Act) that would amend the state constitution to prevent gerrymandering was introduced. Last week a bill was introduced to establish a non-partisan redistricting commission to draw Congressional and General Assembly district lines. The FAIR Act would require the legislature to draw the lines, but also would allow a redistricting commission to do so if one were established; therefore, the two proposals are not in conflict.
The FAIR Act requires several amendments to the North Carolina Constitution: (1) rewriting Section 3, Article II (Senate Districts); (2) rewriting Section 5, Article II (House Districts) to eliminate material describing how House and Senate districts must be apportioned and adding new language to clarify that districts are to be drawn after the decennial census and to remain unchanged until the next census; and (3) adding a detailed addition to Article 2 setting non-partisan criteria and processes for establishing electoral districts for Congress and the General Assembly. Redistricting bills would be written by the General Assembly, but a Redistricting Commission, if one is established, may establish districts for Congress and the General Assembly. If the bill is passed, proposed amendments to the state constitution will be voted on in the primary elections of March 2020 and, if approved, become effective immediately after certification by the Secretary of State. In addition, a detailed article is added to the statute governing redistricting that sets forth a non-partisan process to be followed in redistricting. If the proposed constitutional amendments are approved, this article will become effective January 1, 2021.
This is the best opportunity we have ever had to reform redistricting to eliminate partisan gerrymandering. But even though the sponsorship is bipartisan, there is no guarantee that the bill will pass. For more information, see: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article226578184.html
In a surprise move, a judge has thrown out two constitutional amendments–a voter ID requirement and a cap on state income tax. Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins ruled that the legislature that passed the amendments was so gerrymandered that it did not represent the people of North Carolina. He wrote: “An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution.” A federal court has ruled that many of the legislators who passed the amendments represented districts that had been racially gerrymandered. Court challenges to extreme partisan gerrymandering are pending. This ruling will be appealed. For more details, see https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article226652589.html
-By Robin Davis, NC NOW VP of Legislation
See whole summary and bill listing at North Carolina NOW Legislative Update #4.25 February 2019.