THE RALEIGH REPORT
September 16, 2019
Veto over-ride: By now, most of you have heard many different versions of the veto over-ride vote in the NC House. First and foremost, the Senate can still uphold the Governor's veto. Sen. Phil Berger has announced that any veto over-ride in the Senate will get a 2-day notice.
For now, let's focus on why the Governor vetoed the budget.
If this budget goes into law, the Republican's will have removed, over the past 8 years, at least $4 billion from the revenue stream that funds essential North Carolina government programs. These are investments in our future: education, Medicaid, mental health, early childhood services, environmental protections, essential infrastructure and more. This year, Republicans left almost $1billion on the bottom line – unspent. They proposed using that for another corporate tax cut and to pay for long-term capital projects that are better funded through bonds with abundant non-recurring funds. The Republican budget was unacceptable to the Governor and North Carolina Democrats.
The Governor's compromise kept much of the Republicans' proposal; but instead of cutting taxes again, he raised the salary and wages for all state employees, including teachers. Given inflation, these employees would finally have the buying power they had in 2007. His budget also funded essential health and human services, education and environmental programs, and, by expanding Medicaid, it provided health care for 600,000 uninsured North Carolinians.
Until the Senate takes a vote on the veto over-ride, the Governor will work for a compromise. Senate Democrats have promised to be alert and in their seats. That may be difficult. If one Democrat votes with Republicans or two are absent, Republicans will have the needed 60% vote margin. The Governor and others are considering what legal action might be available if needed. I believe the action clearly violates the state constitution’s multiple references to the "sovereignty of the people."
Gerrymandering. The other main issue of the day is drawing new maps for many the 120 NC House and the 50 NC Senate seats. North Carolina courts recently ruled that, based extreme partisan gerrymandering, NC Republicans have been unconstitutionally convened as the majority in the NC General Assembly since January 2012. Have any of their actions since then been legal?
This isn't the first court ruling on the 2011 Republican redistricting. In 2017, the US Supreme Court ruled the 2012 maps for North Carolina's 13 US Congressional seat and state legislative districts, drawn with assistance by Thomas Hofeller, were unconstitutional based on racial gerrymandering. Republicans immediately drew new Congressional districts to achieve 10 Republican and 3 Democratic seats based, as openly claimed, on partisan gerrymandering. They also redrew state legislative districts.
Democrats challenged the new Congressional districts through the federal court system; they challenged the new state legislative districts through state courts. The US Supreme Court declined to rule on the Congressional maps based on their being political documents. For now, partisan gerrymandering is allowed at the federal level. The current forced redistricting of NC House and Senate districts is based on a ruling of the three-judge panel of the NC Superior Court.
The three-judge panel laid out strict rules: The public had to be able to see and hear everything and have an opportunity to comment. Use of data was limited to the 2010 census to keep districts as close to 80,000 as possible. Counties, municipalities and precincts had to be kept as whole as possible and communities of interest had to be considered. Incumbent protection could be considered. The report was due to the courts in two weeks.
The legislative staff set up on-line audio and visual access to the process. From thousands of sample maps, Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise selected those drawn by Jowei Chen, a University of Michigan redistricting expert who testified for the plaintiffs. With staff help, they identified five House and five Senate maps that most complied with the court orders. They then used a lottery machine to pick one base map for each chamber. The House and Senate committee then worked through their respective maps, moving precincts around until each map was approved by a majority of the committee members.
On the House floor, Rep. Darren Jackson challenged one of the district maps because the partisan gerrymandering that caused this district to be ruled unconstitutional was still in effect. He offered three different options all of which failed on a party line vote. Rep. Jackson stated his belief that the courts would find this map, and thus the entire process, to be unconstitutional. Democrats supported Rep. Jackson and voted NO on all the maps. Republicans passed all the maps on a party line vote except for one map that gained the support of five Democrats.
House Republicans took comments on the bill throughout the process but voted the bill out of the House before the comment period was closed. Senate Republicans will have a public hearing on the Senate maps on Monday before they vote on their bill and send it to the NC House. It is not clear if or when the public comments will be considered by state legislators. They will be submitted to the three-judge panel that will have the final say on whether they accept the changes or require more.
Because the current maps are the most gerrymandered of all the thousands of sample maps created, most of the redrawn districts in both chambers will be more favorable to Democrats than either the 2012 or the 2017 maps.
How to Engage
It's tough to keep track of what is happening. Here are some ways to stay involved.
1. Call me or my legislative assistant Young Bae at 919-733-7208 or email me at Inskola@ncleg.net with How can I get involved in the subject line.
2. Follow us on Twitter at @verlainsko and Facebook at Verla Insko.
3. Visit ncleg.net where you can see bills, listen to session, and see daily calendars.
4. Help us spread the word on social media or by forwarding this newsletter and other alerts or key news items.
As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.
Please remember that you can listen to committee meetings and press conferences on the General Assembly's website at www.ncleg.net. Once on the site, select "Audio," and then make your selection – House Chamber, Senate Chamber, Appropriations Committee Room or Press Conference Room.