The North Carolina General Assembly is in session, vaguely. Since early January, the Republican majority have been holding daily “skeletal sessions”, in which the House and Senate are called to order for a few minutes each day, but no business occurs. Why are they doing this? No one seems certain, but we do know that based on their pattern of previous behavior, this may be a ploy to bring quick laws and amendments to the floor and pass them without real debate or discussion. This article from NC Policy Watch does a great job of explaining the impact of this, along with last week’s announcement of the end of “tabling” in the Legislative Building, on citizens’ ability to hold our lawmakers accountable.
The Courts are Speaking, and….
North Carolina v. Covington: On February 6th, the US Supreme Court granted a stay to the use of the Special Master maps for Wake and Mecklenburg counties, but allowed the new maps to go forward for the six remaining counties, while the Republicans continue their appeal of the 4th District’s previous ruling. This would require Wake and Mecklenburg to use the maps drawn by the Republicans in August 2017. The impact of this ruling is still unfolding. The Plaintiffs in the case have asked the State courts to block the use of the four Wake and one Mecklenburg District drawn by the NCGA, offering that these districts still restrict the voice of black voters. We will continue to follow this crucial case.
League of Women Voters v. Rucho and Common Cause This case, which challenges the federal House districts drawn by Republicans as partisan gerrymandered, has also seen movement in the last few weeks. On January 9th, the District Court ruled the maps unconstitutional and directed the NCGA to redraw the maps by January 24th. Although the District Courts denied the stay requested by Republicans, an emergency stay was granted by the US Supreme Court on January 18th. This case is being watched with Gill v. Whitford (Wisconsin) and Benisek v. Lamone (Maryland) as the US Supreme Court grapples with the issue of partisan gerrymandering. We will continue to monitor this case.
North Carolina Democratic Party, et al v. Berger, et al : This lawsuit, to which the Wake County Democratic Party is a Plaintiff, relates to the elimination of primaries for partisan judicial elections in 2018. On January 31st, a federal judge reinstated the the primaries for the NC Court of Appeals and the NC Supreme Court. Republicans have filed for an emergency stay in the case, which was granted by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.
Cooper v. Berger, I: In a case being watched nationwide, the NC Supreme Court ruled on January 26th that the December 2016 law passed by Republicans (and subsequently amended), that created a bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement and limited Governor Cooper’s power to name members to the board,violated the State Constitution's separation of powers clause. The case now heads back to the NC Superior Court judges who heard the case.
Cooper v. Berger, II: In another case related to Separation of Powers, Governor Cooper is fighting the reduction of the State Court of Appeals size from 15 to 12 judges. The three seats are currently held by judges who are facing mandatory retirement. The lawsuit also argues that the granting of a nine year term on the State Industrial Commission to a Pat McCrory’s former Chief of Staff is unconstitutional. The case is currently being argues in front of a panel of three Superior Court judges.
Republicans Still Playing Politics with Our Children
The fight over class size and the education of NC students took another political turn on Thursday with the introduction of House Bill 90. A budget technical corrections bill which does not allow for amendments, the bill does not require class size reductions in the 2018-19 school year and instead phases the mandated reduction first passed in 2016 over the next four years. It also adds $60 million a year for “enhancement” teachers for PE, music, art, and foreign languages to the budget. It ensures that all pre-K slots will be funded by 2021.
However, the bill includes a poison pill for Democrats. In what is seen as a slap at the Governor after his recent wins in the courts over the Republicans attempts to limit his power, the bill removes control of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation fund and $57.8 million away from Governor Cooper and gives the money to the eight counties through which the pipeline will run AND yet again reworks the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to try and wrest control from Democrats.
Democratic State Senator Jay Chaudhuri of Wake County summed up the issue by saying, "Everyone – our parents, our teachers, our children – suffered because this chamber decided to punish public schools. This body set fire to our public education system, and now we are the so-called firefighters. You can’t be the arsonist and the firefighter at the same time."
House Bill 90 has passed in the Senate and is expected to pass in the House after Tuesday, after which it will be up to Governor Cooper to sign or veto.
Wake County Early Voting Sites
The Wake County Board of Elections has announced the five Early Voting Sites for the May 8th Primary, in addition to the site at the Wake County Board of Elections. Mark Ezell, a Democratic member of the board stated, "Tonight's plan preserves historic voting sites across Wake County, expands the number of locations to accommodate the county's expanding voter base, and gives voters a solid choice of times to vote. More importantly, it maintains our board's reputation as an elections board that values bipartisan consensus for the good of all Wake County voters."
The Early Voting Sites are
Chavis Community Center (Raleigh)
Herbert C Young Community Center (Cary)
WE Hunt Recreation Center (Holly Springs)
Lake Lynn Community Center (Raleigh)
North Regional Center (Wake Forest)
In July 20178, Governor Roy Cooper and NC Democratic Chairperson Wayne Goodwin announced the “Break the Majority” campaign for 2018. The goal of the campaign is to elect Democrats across the state in the House and Senate to break the Republican super majority and to give Governor Cooper more leverage to bring about positive change for NC.
We are happy to report that the drive to find strong Democratic candidates to run in 2018 has been successful in Wake County! Every House and Senate seat currently held by a Republican will be challenged.
The filing period for the 2018 elections opens February 12th and ends on February 28th. We look forward to sharing more information with you on our strong crop of candidates in future updates!
Organizing for November Begins Now!
Annual Precinct Organizing Meetings are taking place this month. These are a great opportunity to meet your fellow Dems and learn about volunteer opportunities for 2018. Find information on when and where your Precinct is meeting here.