Historic Press Conference of Former NC Governors Opposing Proposed Constitutional Amendments

A historic press conference with all five of North Carolina’s Former Governors, both Democrat and Republican, who oppose 2 proposed constitutional amendments.

Today, I witnessed a historic news conference which brought together all 5 of our state’s prior living governors, Jim B. Hunt Jr., Jim G. Martin, Mike F. Easley, Beverly E. Perdue, and Pat L. McCrory, who were united in their opposition to two of the proposed constitutional amendments which will be on the ballot in November.

The two they unanimously opposed were the constitutional amendment which removes the power of future governors to appoint members to a bipartisan board of elections and to over 400 boards and commissions as well as the constitutional amendment which would radically change the way judges are appointed in our state. Unfortunately, the powers transferred from the governor’s office to the legislature by these amendments would be unprecedented, and in a joint statement these governors stated, “These two amendments transfer clear executive authority to the legislature and the ballot language misleads voters as to how damaging these changes would be to our checks and balances in government.” Former Governor Jim Martin, a two-term Republican, even used the words devious and mischievous in referring to these proposed constitutional amendments and he stated that it was embarrassing to him that the GOP had crafted them.

Even Governor Pat McCrory stated that if legislators want the powers of the governor, then they need to have the courage to run for governor and earn it rather than trying to hijack our constitution, or words to that effect. It was gratifying to see these 5 former governors come together in a bipartisan manner and to put our state’s interest and the interests of the people first and foremost as their highest priority.

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National Conference of State Legislators in Los Angeles

Last week, I thoroughly enjoyed attending the National Conference of State Legislators with legislators from virtually every state in America when we all came together for the annual meeting in Los Angeles, California. There were concurrent sessions during this conference which addressed virtually any and every issue which is being confronted by legislators across America. I participated in sessions dealing with the delivery of healthcare and human services as well as sessions dealing with the impact of laws which have recently been passed by Congress or those being contemplated which will impact current laws in the states. I also participated in sessions dealing with Supreme Court decisions which will allow states to become involved with gaming and sports betting as well as the imposition of sales taxes on internet sales. In addition, there were sessions dealing with higher education, redistricting, the environment, and relating to the legalization of the medical use of marijuana as well as the recreational use of marijuana. All-in-all, it was an outstanding conference which offered extraordinary speakers which provided an excellent networking opportunity which can be utilized to explore how some of these issues could impact North Carolina in the future.

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July 24th Special Session Bills Impact on Upcoming Elections

Updates from the July 24th Special Session

House Bill 3 would limit public knowledge and understanding of proposed amendments.

Today, a bill was filed and introduced known as “House Bill 3” titled “Ballot Designations/Referenda.” The sole purpose of the bill was to eliminate the power of a commission currently composed of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a Democrat, Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, and Paul Coble, a Republican who’s in charge of legislative services at the General Assembly, from writing a brief caption or synopsis of each of the six constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot in November’s General Election. This means that the public will not have any context or understanding of these amendments. As it currently stands, the language that will appear relating to each constitutional amendment is vague, obscure, and, in many instances, disguises the true purpose and intent of each of the constitutional amendments. Therefore, voters could be persuaded and misled into voting for an amendment because they are worded in a way that might lead someone to believe that they were a good idea. This type of intentional voter deception is problematic and unfortunate. The true purpose of these amendments is for the Republican majority to do messaging around them that will increase the turnout of their base voters in November.

The Republican majority is afraid that, without these constitutional amendments on the ballot to drive out their base, Democrats have an excellent opportunity to break the Republican supermajority and to potentially take the majority in this year’s General Election. I hope that voters will be smart enough not to be persuaded by these type of tactics. Two of these amendments are specifically targeted at undercutting the authority of Governor Cooper and future governors to appoint persons serving on over 400 boards and commissions as well as appointing judges in our state in a manner in which it has been conducted for decades. This is why former governors, both Republicans and Democrats, are opposed to the idea of amendments curtailing the power of our governor, which is already weaker than many states.

Senate Bill 3 will impact Judicial Candidates in Upcoming Election

In addition to House Bill 3, there was also another bill introduced today known as Senate Bill 3, which passed the Senate. The primary purpose of Senate Bill 3 was to eliminate Republican competition in the race for the North Carolina Supreme Court. Justice Barbara Jackson, who is a Republican serving on the court, is being challenged by Anita Earls, who is a Democrat, and announced her candidacy early this year after the Republican majority made judicial races partisan. Anita was well-regarded and respected as an attorney due to her successful challenges of laws enacted by the General Assembly that were determined to be unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. Last year, the Republican majority also eliminated judicial primaries, therefore, it was possible for more than one Democrat or more than one Republican to seek positions at the same time in the General Election.

When the judicial filing period opened in June, Christopher Anglin announced that he was seeking a seat on the NC Supreme Court as a Republican. This would’ve meant that two Republicans were both running for the same seat that Anita Earls, a Democrat, was running for which would have likely increased her chances of winning. Therefore, today, Senate Bill 3 was introduced which was specifically targeted at Christopher Anglin, since he was previously registered as a Democrat before he decided to run for a seat on the NC Supreme Court. Senate Bill 3 essentially states that a candidate who changed his party affiliation within 90 days of filing for office would not be listed as running as a Republican or as a Democrat, or even as an Independent. The person would have no party affiliation next to their name, or they would be allowed to withdraw from the race altogether.

During debate on the floor of the Senate, it was clear that this was the purpose of Senate Bill 3, even though the bill theoretically applies to all judicial candidates in the State of North Carolina. When I asked today in the Rules Committee whether the bill sponsor or any person with our State Board of Elections could identify how many candidates would be impacted by this bill, no one could provide a number, and the only person identified was Christopher Anglin. During debate on the floor today of the Senate, another candidate in Wake County was identified as potentially being impacted by this bill as well.

I ran an amendment today that would require the State Board of Elections to provide notice to all judicial candidates of this new law via e-mail, telephonic communications, written notice, or by other electronic means as expeditiously as possible. This amendment was adopted as a part of the bill. Hopefully, if there are other candidates impacted, then they will find out how this bill impacts them in an expedient manner. It is absolutely wrong and unconscionable to change an important rule of this type after the filing period for a position has opened and closed simply because the General Assembly is not happy with the party affiliation of the candidates who had filed. I am positive that if two Democrats were seeking the position on the NC Supreme Court and only 1 Republican had filed, then we would not have been brought back to change the law. Please, this is one further reason why we must come out this November and vote to take back our state and to change the makeup of the North Carolina General Assembly.

Another Special Session of the NC General Assembly

Even though the General Assembly adjourned less than a month ago with plans, at that time, to reconvene on November 27th after the General Election, today, a notice was sent to legislators advising them that tomorrow we will reconvene for a Special Session months in advance for the purpose of crafting special language to describe the six constitutional amendments which will be placed before voters for consideration. There is already proposed language in the bills relating to each of these amendments, however, the Republican majority in the General Assembly does not want to leave it to anyone other than themselves to craft the final language.

Most disturbing is the fact that most of these amendments will be deceptively described in ways that will not reveal their true intent or purpose. For example, there is an amendment dealing with the creation of a new bipartisan election and ethics board. The problem is the governor in this state has always had the power to appoint these members in the past, but more importantly, additional language in the amendment would eliminate Governor Cooper’s ability to appoint members to over 400 boards and commissions. This is one of the reasons why prior governors, both Republican and Democrat, are opposing this amendment including Republican Governors Pat McCrory and Jim Martin.

Another proposed amendment would allow the NC General Assembly to review and select individuals which the governor could appoint to judicial vacancies. The General Assembly would have the responsibility of recommending two people for each position which the governor could select from. Currently, the governor selects from a list of 5 persons recommended by local bar associations, which have Democratic and Republican members, to fill vacancies. Once again, the governor is the loser regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is serving in the future.

Today, I was interviewed with Rep. David Lewis to discuss this upcoming Special Session for a segment on the Capital Tonight program where the host is Loretta Boniti. It will be broadcast tonight at 7:00 pm and at 12:00 am (midnight).

Town Hall Meeting with Durham’s Legislative Delegation

Yesterday evening, Durham’s Legislative Delegation conducted a Town Hall Meeting which took place at the Headquarters for the Durham County Democratic Party. I was extremely pleased to see a crowd of close to 200 people turn out for this event. There was standing room only. Each member of our delegation was able to discuss issues of concern which occurred during the Short Session of the General Assembly which ended recently.

There was a great deal of interest among those attending about the six proposed amendments to North Carolina’s Constitution which will be on the ballot in November; I would encourage each of you to vote no to these amendments which are unneeded and unnecessary. Many of the amendments are designed to intentionally confuse voters, and their true purpose and intent is to simply help the Republican supermajority turn out their base this November. There was also discussion relating to actions which need to be taken to ensure that we break the Republican supermajority in the North Carolina House and in the North Carolina Senate. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who turned out for this important event, and I would encourage each of them to assist us in turning out voters for the November election.

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The Durham Democratic Party Public Hearing on Resolutions

I’d like to thank all the activists who attended Durham Democratic Party public hearing this past Saturday at the Hillandale Resource Center where a compilation of resolutions submitted during Democratic Precinct Meetings were discussed. This year, Stephen Gheen, Chairman of the Durham County Democratic Party, established a committee to review resolutions submitted at precinct meetings with the goal of creating a single document containing all resolutions which would be voted up or down at the County Convention for the Democratic Party. Mr. Milo Pyne and Attorney Shelia Ann Huggins were appointed as Co-Chairpersons of the committee. The committee was composed of approximately 10-12 activists in the party which was charged with this important mission. I had the privilege of serving as a member of this committee. The committee met for approximately 14-16 hours to devise a proposed resolution package for the party’s consideration. The purpose of the meeting this past Saturday was to receive community input on the resolutions before the package was finalized. I’d like to thank all the members of the committee who participated in the Durham Democratic Party public hearing, but more importantly all of those who came out for this special occasion to share their thoughts, concerns, and constructive input.

Animal Rescue Weekend – Coral & Mr. G’s Journey to a New Home

This weekend I had the opportunity to take part in an activity that is near and dear to my heart – the rescue of a couple of sweet dogs. As I learned this weekend, rescuing an animal can be defined in so many more ways than just adopting. This weekend I became part a group of individuals that pour their hearts into saving animals one by one through fostering and transporting for rescues who give dogs a second chance at a wonderful life.

My small part involved giving a Pit Bull mix mom and a Jack Russell mix boy a lift from Durham, NC to South Hill, VA but that was just a small part of the three day 1247 mile trip from Youngsville, LA to Mechanicsburg, PA where Coral the Pit and Mr. G the Terrier mix will get their new chance at an amazing life. Coral and Mr. G’s saviors include twenty drivers and two overnighters, a sending rescue, a receiving rescue, and a transport coordinator/monitor from a rescue who assists others in order to keep expenses down for charities that opt to rescue from afar.

Teamwork plays a large part in any charity activity, but the dedication and devotion to saving lives were very apparent in each and every volunteer’s picture and post as they documented their loving contribution to the movement of two deserving souls destined for better times. Organizations such as StoryTeller’s Express, Inc depend on volunteers to assist them in assisting others each transport weekend and many of these trips have routes that pass through the State of North Carolina. No matter where you are within the State, you may be able to assist through providing a 1 to 1 ½ hour ride or a temporary overnight stay along the route which truly makes a difference in lowering the euthanasia rates for states in the south while providing dogs to wonderful homes with great families. Three hours out of your weekend is so little to give and most times the organizations are registered as 501c3 charities which enables you to consider your efforts as tax-deductible contributions while saving lives.

Much help is needed in our State where rescues such as these not only pass through on transport but also pull dogs and transfer them to wherever they might have a greater opportunity for loving homes. If you would like to become a part of this amazing network, I would urge you to reach out to StoryTeller’s Express, Inc via their Facebook page and consider signing up as a volunteer. This rescue not only rescues dogs themselves but also assists other rescues in keeping down costs through organizing volunteer rescues such as the one I assisted with this weekend. If you can overnight foster, temp foster, long-term foster, drive, do home checks, monitor transports, or even tag volunteers your assistance is greatly needed!
One can also offer assistance by signing up on their website.

Please consider becoming involved by doing a small part to help animals in need. Together we can make a huge difference for a worthy cause!