Our special session is now entering its 4th week. This is very unusual. Usually in even years we have a short session that begins in May and ends in July. At this point, our "special" session is going to be almost as long as our regular session. And, we still aren't voting on bills. To meet the technical rules, a "skeleton" session is held every 3 days. Very few legislators are present (if any) and no bills move forward. I'm still working on constituent issues and attending committee meetings when they're scheduled. Here's an update on happenings around the state.
Governor Cooper is working hard to bring economic success to our state's rural communities. He launched a new initiative today called Hometown Strong. The Governor's team will work to form partnerships with local leaders to champion our rural communities, leveraging state and local resources, identify ongoing projects and community needs, and implementing focused plans to boost the economy, improve infrastructure and strengthen North Carolina’s hometowns. My hope is that bringing internet to every corner of the state will be one of the initiative's top priorities.
Redistricting and Election Lawsuits - Explained
North Carolina is leading the nation in election confusion. Two bills that were passed over the Governor's veto have been found unconstitutional and this week that garnered us more unwanted national attention. Security and stability in our elections is vital, and the unfortunate gamesmanship we've seen this year is irresponsible and dangerous.
Judicial Primary Elections
Our Constitution provides that voters elect our state judges. Traditionally, we have a primary just like we do for other offices. Last year Republicans cancelled those primaries for all judges, citing the need to redraw the districts. This week a federal judge blocked the cancellation of the statewide primaries for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals since no districts are being redrawn for those races, but did not block the cancellation of local primaries for Superior Court and District Court.
This may all get appealed, but as it stands now we will have statewide judicial primaries for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, but no primaries for local Superior Court and District Court judges.
State Board of Elections
The State Board of Elections is responsible for ensuring our elections run smoothly and that candidates and special interest groups are accurately reporting the money they raise and spend. For the last year, there has been no board. That's because just before Governor Cooper took office, the majority in the legislature passed a new law that changed the board and made it difficult for the Governor to appoint or remove members of the board.
The NC Supreme Court upheld Governor Cooper's challenge to the law and now a lower court will sort out how we transition back to the old law. Right now, there is considerable confusion and uncertainty, but the Supreme Court’s ruling should put us back on a path to having elections administered fairly, as they have been for decades under both Republican and Democratic Governors.
Several lawsuits challenging our congressional and legislative districts are still working their way through the courts. The bottom line is that we will likely use the same districts for our 2018 Congressional elections that we used in 2016. Legislative districts across much of the state will change, but there is still uncertainty about where those lines will be for some districts. We should know about that next week, but the most likely outcome is we will use some districts drawn by a court-appointed expert and some districts drawn by the legislature. This won't affect Buncombe County because our district lines weren't challenged and haven't changed. If you really want to get into the details of the different lawsuits, NC Policy Watch has a helpful summary of the pending court cases.
We'll have more updates for you as soon as our special session ramps back up.