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.

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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.

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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!