Wake Dems Weekly Update: Overruled

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 9

June 9, 2017
 

UNCONSTITUTIONAL (FOR THE THIRD TIME)

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court affirmed a ruling by the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina that 28 legislative districts drawn by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2011 were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. This is the third time in the last two months the Court has ruled against the 2011 maps. This ruling directly impacts only nine Senate and 19 House districts out of 170 total districts, but redrawing those will have a ripple effect in many surrounding districts.

A caveat: the Court did vacate the remedy ordered by the previous court--2017 special elections and immediate redrawing of the lines--sending the case back to the district court for further consideration. Now the only questions were the timing of the redrawing and when the next elections in the newly drawn seats would take place. 2017 elections are still possible, but unlikely.

Wednesday, Gov. Cooper attempted to answer one of those questions when he called a special legislative session to redraw the maps. The session was supposed to have started Thursday afternoon and last for two weeks or until maps were produced. But in a bid to continue delaying the process until 2017 elections are off the table, Republicans filed protests of the governor’s proclamation in both chambers, refusing to comply because they claim his move was unconstitutional.

The governor has threatened that the courts will draw the lines if legislators don’t act soon. The district court must still rule on when the legislature must produce new maps and when elections under the new lines will be held, and any maps must be approved by that same court before being implemented. So we are still in for some more drama in the next few weeks or even months.

THE BILL THAT WILL NOT DIE (BUT MAY GET PEOPLE KILLED)

House Bill 746, the “Omnibus Gun Changes,” came a step closer to passage this week. Much like the budget debates of the past few weeks, Democrats offered several amendments on the floor Wednesday afternoon, all of which were quickly either tabled or defeated. Republicans were scared of being on the record as against these common-sense improvements to the bill. Wake’s three Republican members voted against or voted in favor of tabling all these amendments, except Chris Malone, who voted against tabling two of them. After six such amendments, a Republican member moved the previous question, ending debate and proceeding immediately to a vote on second reading.

The next day, the bill passed its third reading by a 64-51 vote in the House, with all three Wake Republicans voting in favor. Notably, that margin is not veto-proof. Gov. Cooper is expected to veto the bill, and Republicans would need 72 votes to override.

In the leadup to the vote, pro-gun group Grassroots NC yet again showed its contempt for democracy and decency by publishing the personal information of lobbyists who are working to stop HB 746, while encouraging its members to “reach out” to the lobbyists.

See last week’s edition for more details on the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

SUNNY DAYS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY

House Bill 589, Competitive Energy Solutions for NC, passed the House with bipartisan support, 108 to 11. Its fate is now in the Senate’s hands. The bill would:

  • allow third-party leasing of solar arrays for rooftops and community projects
  • reinstate the "green source rider" that allows large energy customers to dictate the amount of energy to be provided by renewables
  • open competitive bidding for solar and other installations to bring prices down
  • leave in place the state's renewable energy portfolio standard, or REPS, which dictates that state utilities should be getting 12.5% of their energy from renewable sources by 2021.

NC Policy Watch had a good explainer of the bill.

BUDGET UPDATE

Monday night, legislative leaders released the list of budget conferees, the members who are working to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the budget for final approval. The two sides are in agreement on a lot of matters already. Those wishing to still influence the budget would be advised to focus on areas where the House and Senate versions disagree (see this chart) and to contact conferees from Wake County. In the House, chief budget writer Nelson Dollar chairs the conference committee, and John Alexander and Tamara Barringer are delegates from the Senate.

COMING NEXT WEEK

Bills, bills, and more bills...and maybe a budget agreement.