SPECIAL UPDATE: Make your comments on Early Voting sites

A message from our friend Richard Loeppert:

The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement is holding a very important meeting this Sunday, August 5 for consideration of one-stop early voting plans for 15 counties, including Wake, whose boards were each unable to to agree unanimously on their plans.

For Wake County, the outcome will impact access to the polls for many of our citizens. Wake County plans can be downloaded from here.

The State Board is accepting public comment using an on-line form. The importance of the on-line comments cannot be overstated, as we can be assured some other citizens will be making comments with the sole purpose of restricting the vote by segments of the population. On-line comments to the State Board of Elections must be received by Thursday, August 2.

Here is a brief comparison of Wake County early voting plans:

  • Wake County plans A and C are similar in that they include both Chavis and the NC State Talley sites, a strong distribution of county sites, and each has received strong Democratic input.
  • Plan C has the advantage of an additional popular site (Optimist Community Center), but has the disadvantage of only one day of Sunday voting compared to two days for plan A.
  • Plans B and D are the Republican promoted plans that have not proposed the Talley site or Sunday voting.

It is clear that a melding of plans A and C would be the preferable course of action to provide the best possible access to the diversity of Wake County citizens.

In your public comments to the Board it would certainly be okay to advocate for plan C and at the same time stress the need to increase access to Sunday voting, which is the preferred (and sometimes only) option for many Wake County citizens. Advocacy for the Talley and Chavis sites, weekend voting options, and especially Sunday voting remain important.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like more information on any of the previous Wake County BOE earty voting site and time discussions.

I especially hope that you are able to take a few minutes to make an on-line public comment by the August 2 cutoff date.

 

Sincerely,

Richard Loeppert, WDMC Liaison to WCDP Voting Task Force

rhl@loeppert.net

919-424-7321

Wake Dems Weekly Update: Gerrymandering, Voting, Elections and More

Welcome!

The GOP in the NC General Assembly has sunk to new lows in the last few weeks in their craven attempts to hold onto power in the face of repeated losses in court and a slate of strong Democratic candidates for the November midterms. You can help with the final push to #BreakTheMajority by volunteering and providing financial support.

The Wake County Democratic Party is holding a fundraiser on Wednesday, June 27th to help support our candidates this November. Please join us and help continue to push the #2018BlueWave!

Legislative Session Update

As promised, we are continuing to monitor what is happening during this session of the NCGA. The GOP is trying to wrap up activity as quickly as possible, ramming through bills without debate or proper consideration.

Here is an update to bills we are following, as well as information on new ones of interest.

___________________________________________________________________________

Election Meddling Vetoed: Senate Bill 486

Governor Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 486 on Friday . “The Elections Security and Transparency Act” contains a number of changes, such as requiring criminal records checks for employees and contractors of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement and county-level election boards, setting the layout of the section of the November ballot for judges since primaries were cancelled, and guidelines for the participation of new political parties in the general election. One section that got significant attention was the “sore loser clause”, which restricts a candidate who lost in their party’s primary from running as a 3rd party candidate in the general election.

Governor Cooper released the following statement in relation to the veto, “"Continued election meddling for partisan advantage weakens public confidence. Judges’ races should be free of partisan labels.”

Judicial Gerrymandering Attempts Vetoed: Senate Bill 757 and House Bill 1037

On Friday, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 757 and House Bill 1037. These flawed Bills  were presented late Friday afternoon the week prior and offered new maps for judicial districts as well as significant changes to Wake and Mecklenburg counties so that judges would no longer run county-wide. The legislation was so rushed and flawed that they required multiple technical amendments in attempts to fix them.

Governor Cooper released the following statement in relation to the vetoes, “"The legislative attempts to rig the courts by reducing the people's vote hurts justice. Piecemeal attempts to target judges create unnecessary confusion and show contempt for North Carolina’s judiciary.”.

Early Voting Threatened: Senate Bill 325

Senate Bill 325, The Uniform and Expanded Early Voting Act, has been presented to Governor Cooper. This Bill would:

  • Cut the number of voting days from 17 to 10,
  • Eliminate the final Saturday and beginning early voting on a Wednesday

  • Require that polling places be open 7am to 7pm on weekdays and that the times for the one allowed weekend be the same for both days,

  • And require local Boards of Election to file voter list maintenance reports in September.

Governor Cooper is expected to veto the Bill.

A Raleigh citizen’s email raised concerns about SB 325 and stated that “Our State Legislature is the poster child of hollowing out Democracy from within.” Republican Senator Rick Horner chastised the woman and told her to “Stop bothering people at such an hour.”. Yet another reminder that the GOP in the NCGA has forgotten their job to serve the people of NC and why we must #BreakTheMajority in November!

Defeated in Committee: House Bill 933

House Bill 933, the attempt to circumvent the Affordable Care Act’s provision for the covering of pre-existing conditions by allowing the NC Farm Bureau to sell “skinny plans”, was defeated in Committee last week. We will remain vigilant in watching for other Bills that could be hijacked for a similar effort.

Disrespecting Teachers and Public Employees AGAIN: House Bill 1055

The GOP is playing their same old game of crafting a Bill whose title entirely misrepresents the content. House Bill 1055, the Retirement Complexity Reduction Act of 2018, has been presented to Governor Cooper. It “reduces complexity” by removing options such as social security leveling for employees, restricting the number of years of creditable state service a returning employee may purchase to five (5), and adding additional restrictions to the purchase of creditable service for part-time and temporary state employment, as well as for extended illness and paternal leave. The Bill has been presented to Governor Cooper.

GOP Flip-Flops Three Times: Senate Bill 335 and House Bill 463

As we noted in last week’s update the GOP’s speed, lack of transparency, and lack of debate resulted in this year’s Budget process being placed in a conference committee report. A technical corrections was required to fix the rash of issues found in the original Budget. Subsequently, we learned last Thursday that the Bills, Senate Bill 335 and House Bill 463, contain another provision which could financially impact our public schools, especially in Wake County. Language added to the Bills reverses a provision passed last year in the NCGA which requires municipalities to reimburse school districts for state-mandated projects to improve street systems related to school construction.

The new Bill allows municipalities to place conditions on the approval of these road projects on school systems, either reducing or waiving the reimbursement for the improvements. The new provision was shepherded by Wake County Rep. Nelson Dollar and Sen. Tamara Barringer. This election year ploy by the two Republicans could create an unfettered financial burden on Wake County Schools, the largest school system in the state.

Then on Friday, the NCGA passed House Bill 374/Senate Bill 501, a “Regulatory Reform Bill” which contained language repealing the Sections on reimbursement in SB 335/HB 463 (that had passed the day before).

This mass confusion is what happens when purely partisan legislating occurs in haste and in a secret vacuum. Both Bills are now with Governor Cooper.

It Helps to Have Friends in the NCGA: House Bill 374 and Senate Bill 501

In another reminder of who the GOP sees as their true constituents, the “Regulatory Reform Act of 2018” is a set of giveaways to privileged special interest groups. Some of the highlights include:

  • Exempting the personal property of charter schools from property tax,

  • Amending the process for vacancy appointments to the Utilities and Industrial Commissions,

  • Allowing an electric public utility that generates electric power by fossil fuel or nuclear fuel to charge an increment or decrement as a rider to its rates for changes in the cost of fuel and fuel-related costs,

  • Allowing counties to contract out more easily to private companies for solid waste services,

  • Modifying requirements for underground storage tanks, and

  • Grandfathering in additional structures built prior to January 1, 2017 from having to meet requirements under the Coastal Stormwater Program.

The Bill has been presented to Governor Cooper.

NC Farm Act of 2018: Senate Bill 711

Senate Bill 711, the NC Farm Act of 2018, has been a lightning rod of controversy over the last few weeks as it has worked its way through the Legislature. Why? The Bill contains common items you might expect to find in a Farm Bill - requiring fruit and vegetable handlers to be registered with the state, exemption of NC agriculture merchandise from the Umstead Act, technical corrections to forestry statutes, and parameters for agriculture and forestry studies. However, there are several parts of the Bill that have been garnering the most headlines.

  • Section, 15.2, allowing for the harvesting, sharing, and consumption, but not sale, of raw milk and raw milk products,

  • Section 6, forbidding plant-based products, such as almond or soy, from being labeled “milk” if eleven (11) other Southern states create a regional compact and pass similar legislation,

  • Section 10 has received the most attention. The section, titled “Amend North Carolina Right to Farm Law”, is a response to the $50 million dollar judgement against Murphy-Brown/Smithfield Foods in April in relation to a lawsuit brought by neighbors of a 15,000 acre industrial-scale hog farm. Known as a “nuisance” lawsuit, the ten plaintiffs complained of the stench and insects resulting from the open-air sewage pits on the farm. The Farm Bill would limit those who can sue to only a half mile from the alleged source, states that suits can only be brought in the first year of operation of a farm, and limits the awarding of punitive damages only if the farm has also been convicted of a crime or civil enforcement.

This provision has even divided Republicans.

    • The Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, published a memorandum calling for Section 10 to be removed from the Farm Act due to its being unconstitutional under NC law.

    • GOP Rep. John Blust from Guilford County, blasted his colleagues during House floor debate of the Bill, stating that the Farm Bill is “taking sides in a dispute”.  He further accused his colleagues of behind the scenes shenanigans by packing the gallery with small family farmers when the Bill was not even on the calendar for debate, and despite the fact that Section 10 was aimed at protecting large agribusiness.

The Bill has been presented to Governor Cooper, who has agreed only to review it.

____________________________________________________________________________

Governor Cooper Joins East Coast Governors in Opposing the Enhancing State Management of Federal Lands and Water Act

Late last week, Governor Cooper joined the Governors of Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Virginia in signing a letter to Congress in opposition to the “Enhancing State Management of Federal Lands and Water Act”. The Bill would allow states to disapprove oil and gas drilling of their coasts in up to 50% of the federal lease blocks without a penalty. However, if a state disapproves more than the 50%, they would be financially penalized 1/10th of the revenue the federal government expects it would make on the sale and royalties of the blocks.

The letter notes, ““It could not be more clear that the citizens of our states oppose the U.S. Department of Interior’s Proposed Plan to open 98 percent of our nation’s coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling. Virtually every state along the Atlantic coast has opposed this strategy and all the undersigned governors have registered their objections with the Interior Department. In addition, a bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators from our states have stood united with us in their opposition to this proposal and many of our state legislatures and local governments have enacted statutes or ordinances, respectively, to prevent or oppose offshore drilling. We ask that Congress recognize and respect the rights of states to protect our waters without being held hostage by the combined effects of the Interior Department’s dangerous proposal and this misguided legislation.”

North Carolina Steps Into the National Spotlight of Partisan Gerrymandering

On Monday, the US Supreme Court issued rulings in partisan gerrymandering cases in Wisconsin (Gill v. Whitford) and Maryland (Benisek v. Lamone) that sent both cases back to lower courts for further proceedings. North Carolina’s partisan gerrymandering case, RUCHO, ROBERT A., ET AL. V. COMMON CAUSE, ET AL, which is a consolidation of three cases and challenges the thirteen (13) federal House districts drawn by Republicans starting in 2010, is next up in the queue for the Supreme Court. The NC case differs from the Wisconsin and Maryland cases, as the intent of the GOP to gerrymander is much clearer. Court watchers believe we may see a decision in the case prior to the close of the Court’s session.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice released a statement after the Court’s ruling. “North Carolina remains the most crystal clear example of why a rule creating limits on partisan gerrymandering is so necessary. The record evidence of constitutional injury presented in our case is overwhelming–legislators intentionally cracked and packed millions of North Carolina voters to silence their political voice. We look forward to the opportunity to argue our case on the merits before the U.S. Supreme Court, where we do not have the same procedural issues that prevented a substantive ruling in the cases decided today.”

Our Carolina Promise

Have you heard about “Our Carolina Promise”? The Promise is a platform put forth by the NC Democratic Party which addresses the key concerns of voters and candidates in the 2018 midterm elections to strengthen our state from coast to coast.

The Promise is broken down into four (4) main areas of concern:

  1. For Our Jobs

  2. For Our Schools

  3. Four Our Health

  4. For Our State.

Each contains key Democratic promises related to that area.

Read and sign the Promise today! Start spreading the good news of the Democratic message for a stronger NC!

 

Keep up with WCDP events and news!

The journey to the November midterms has begun and WCDP board and staff are making every effort to keep up with the myriad events taking place across the county from candidate fundraisers to volunteer opportunities to auxiliary meetings. Check out the calendar here, and if you have events of your own you wish to publicize, send details to WCDP 3rd Vice Chair Zainab Baloch (wcdp3vc@gmail.com).

Want to start receiving emails from WCDP with news and updates? Sign up here!

Wake Dems Weekly Update: Chaos in Session

Welcome!

The Wake County Democratic Party was well represented at this year’s NC Democratic Party Convention! Attendees heard from candidates for the state’s Congressional Districts, as well as for the State’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. After rousing speeches from former Maryland governor and 2016 Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley and State Senator Floyd McKissick, state Dems are “Fired up, Ready to Go” into the 2018 midterm elections! Commit to Vote today!

Legislative Session Update

The North Carolina General Assembly has been in session since May 16th. The legislators were greeted their first day back by a sea of red, as educators from across the state and their supporters descended on Raleigh for “Rally For Respect”. The gathering was used to highlight the need to make public education a top priority in NC. The response to the rally was so overwhelming that 42 school districts were closed that day. The #Red4Ed movement has adopted the slogan “Remember in November” to encourage those concerned about the condition of education in NC to register and vote in November for candidates who support public education.

This session has also seen a political move from the GOP that undermines our democratic processes. For the first time in state history, an entire budget bill was placed into a conference committee report. By doing so, the Republican’s $23.9 billion budget, Senate Bill 99, originally filed in February and related to car insurance, was considered a final work product of the Legislative Research Commission Committee 5 on Regulatory and Rate Issues in Insurance. This meant there was no ability to debate or amend the GOP-crafted state budget. With their supermajority in place, the GOP was able to pass the budget, as well as override Governor Cooper’s veto this week.

Despite the claims by the likes of Rep. Nelson Dollar, House District 36, this budget is bad news for ordinary NC citizens and a windfall for big business, for-profit education, and GOP incumbents in at-risk seats. Patrick McHugh, an economic analyst with the North Carolina Justice Center, estimates that there is almost $35 million in “pork” in this budget. The GOP also tinkered with the “Transformative Project” incentive program, which provides tax breaks to companies who move to NC, to provide more incentives to companies while lowering the bar on the benefits to NC.

The GOP is now working on its Budget Technical Corrections Bill (Senate Bill 335 and House Bill 463) to try and fix what they have broken with their secretive, hurried budget process. It is in response to the outrage of NC voters when they learned

  • a Suicide Prevention Hotline had been unfunded,

  • the planned Durham/Chapel Hill light rail had been undermined,

  • new State Troopers would have to pay for their own training via loans,

  • a vulnerable Charlotte GOP incumbent’s district had been allotted $230,000 for school supplies through the Donor’s Choose organization.

However, the new Corrections also contain some more bad news for NC citizens, especially for public education.

  • Monies earmarked for additional inpatient behavioral health beds in Fayetteville will instead go to the home district of the chair of the House Rules Committee.

  • Cities that are now allowed to fund their own charter schools under the original budget can use that money via capital expenses to lease or buy buildings.

  • The Department of Public Instruction is barred from making any cuts in the Office of Charter Schools.

This week, Wake County’s own House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson successfully added a bipartisan amendment to House Bill 998 (Improving NC Rural Health) to study the cost and benefits of expanding Medicaid in NC under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However the amendment was stripped from the Bill by the GOP and replaced with an amendment to study how to make access to healthcare more difficult, not easier.

With the threat of a #BlueWave2018 upon them, the GOP in the NCGA is working overtime during this special session to pass as many Bills as possible to further their their legacy of undermining voter rights, our courts, our healthcare, and our middle class. (And it’s our guess that they’re trying to get back to their districts to campaign against the Democratic challengers we have running against them).

___________________________________________________________________

Here is a quick review of some of the bills we are continuing to follow:

Early Voting Threatened: Senate Bill 325

In the middle of the night, the GOP has released another sneak attack to move forward their plan for voter suppression. They have hijacked SB325, originally titled “Billion Dollar Middle Class Tax Cut” and have used it to make major changes to early voting. The amended Bill, now misleadingly titled “The Uniform & Expanded Early Voting Act”, amends a statute that was voided by a federal court earlier. It cuts the number of voting days from 17 to 10, eliminating the final Saturday and beginning early voting on a Wednesday. It requires that polling places be open 7am to 7pm on weekdays and that the times for the one allowed weekend be the same for both days. In line with the Supreme Court’s decision this week to allow voter purges in Ohio, the bill also requires local Boards of Election to file voter list maintenance reports in September.

The bill’s language is vague and confusing, at best, but is clear in its intentions to cut a week from early voting in the State, which the GOP will argue is offset by the longer poll hours.

Voter ID Constitutional Amendment: House Bill 1092

Last Thursday, the GOP filed House Bill 1092 (Constitutional Amendment - Require Photo ID to Vote). Having been on the losing end of every related court case, and needing to fire up their base for the midterms, Republicans are now placing the question of requiring voter ID on the ballot in November. The bill itself is less than half a page and is open-ended (i.e., it does not indicate any specifics as to what IDs are acceptable, etc.), allowing the General Assembly to “fill in the blanks” if it is passed by the voters. This bill has enough GOP support to pass and does not require the Governor’s signature.

We are waiting to hear about additional Constitutional Amendments being added to this November’s ballot, including more changes to limit Governor Cooper’s power over the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement and hunting and fishing rights. The NCGA is currently debating Senate Bill 75, which is a Constitutional Amendment to cap the maximum tax rates on incomes at 5.5%, putting the future of NC at risk by limiting funding for education, senior care, and “safety net” programs and forcing increases in local and property taxes to try an make up for lost revenue.

Judicial Gerrymandering Attempts Continue: Senate Bill 757, House Bill 717, House Bill 1037

Time is winding down toward the filing deadline for judicial elections, and the GOP in the NCGA is still working to gerrymander the courts in NC to provide a rubber stamp for their unconstitutional actions. These three Bills play a central role in these attempts.

Senate Bill 757 (Various Court District Changes) would redistrict the Wake, Mecklenburg, Pender, and New Hanover county Superior and District Court districts. It has been presented to Governor Cooper.

House Bill 717 (Judicial Elections Changes) would reduce the NC judicial and superior court  divisions from eight (8) to five (5), change the rotation and assignment of Superior Court judges, and stop the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement from using the incumbent judges’ names from identifying judicial seats. It has been appointed by the Conference Committee.

House Bill 1037 (Various Judicial Districts Changes) redistricts the prosecutorial, Superior, and District Courts in eight NC counties. It has completed its third reading.

Wake County’s Darren Jackson has raised a number of concerns about how quickly these bills are moving through the General Assembly without proper time or resources to review their impacts. We will continue to monitor these Bills and update you on their progress.

_____________________________________________________________________

The North Carolina Democratic Party has announced endorsements this week for the NC Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals in order to address concerns raised by the continued GOP efforts to gerrymander and stifle a free and fair judiciary. This was also done in an effort to distinguish real Democratic candidates for office from Republicans who have announced plans to switch parties and run as Democrats in various judicial contests. The NCDP is endorsing the following candidates.

NC Supreme Court: Anita Earls

NC Court of Appeals: Judge John ArrowoodAllegra CollinsToby Hampson

No Longer What It Seems: House Bill 933

When House Bill 933 (Reciprocity/School Psychologist Licensure) was filed in May, its purpose was to improve school safety in NC by granting a license to practice as a school psychologist to individuals who hold a nationally certified school psychologist credential. The Bill was based on a recommendation which enjoyed bipartisan support from the House Select Committee on School Safety. The Committee was established after a series of shootings at schools around the U.S.)That all changed last week when the Bill was unexpectedly hijacked.

The new portions of the Bill would allow for circumventing ACA rules by allowing groups such as the NC Farm Bureau to offer health plans which do not require state oversight, nor guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions.These types of plans are often called “skinny plans”. It mirrors a similar provision passed for the TN Farm Bureau, which has led to an undermining of the ACA Marketplace in that market. It also aligns with Federal efforts to deny over 4 million North Carolinians with pre-existing conditions of their healthcare. We will continue to follow this update to the Bill.

Fighting for What is Right: Senate Bill 794

June is LGBT Pride Month. Wake County’s Sen. Jay Chaudhuri is one of the primary sponsors of Senate Bill 794 (Hate Crimes Prevention Act). The Bill calls for the expansion of the scope and punishment of hate crimes in NC. Gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, and disability would be included in the definition of hate crimes in NC. Current Class 2 and Class 3 misdemeanors which are committed with malice or hate against protected groups would be tried as Class 1 misdemeanors, while current Class 1 or Class A1 misdemeanors would be tried as Class H felonies. Felonious assaults with a hate crime component would be classified as Class E felonies. The Bill also calls for the creation of a Hate Crimes Statistics Database for tracking these crimes in NC, as well as training for law enforcement in identifying hate crimes.

Without this type of law in NC, LGTBQ individuals and their families and advocates are forced to rely on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act at the federal level for hate crimes charges. Bill 794 has passed first reading and has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.

Could NC be #38? : Equal Rights Amendment

With the NCGA in session, and bills related to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in both House and Senate committees (House Bill 1072 and Senate Bill 782), NC is in a unique position to be the linchpin state which provides the 38th vote required to the make the ERA a constitutional amendment! Both Bills have passed 1st Reading and are mired down in Committee. Please contact your legislator and request that they support a discharge petition to move these Bills out of committee and to the floor for a vote.

_____________________________________________________________

Keep up with WCDP events and news!

The journey to the November midterms has begun and WCDP board and staff are making every effort to keep up with the myriad events taking place across the county from candidate fundraisers to volunteer opportunities to auxiliary meetings. Check out the calendar here, and if you have events of your own you wish to publicize, send details to WCDP 3rd Vice Chair Zainab Baloch (wcdp3vc@gmail.com).


Want to start receiving emails from WCDP with news and updates? Sign up here!