NC General Assembly Week in Review: Special Edition on Constitutional Amendment Session

September 16, 2011

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Lawmakers Adjourn Special Session on Constitutional Amendments

The legislature convened this week for a 3-day special session, which was called to deal with constitutional amendments. While the session was initially expected to yield three constitutional amendments, only one amendment passed, leaving two other issues for upcoming legislative sessions.

  • Marriage Amendment Passes, Placed on May 2012 Ballot

    The only amendment approved during this week’s special session was the one in which will amend the state constitution banning same sex marriage and civil unions, putting the amendment on the May 2012 ballot for voters. While state law already defines marriage between a man and a woman, proponents of the amendment argue that traditional marriage will be protected with a constitutional amendment against potential legal challenges as thirty other states have already done. Opponents on the other hand argue the policy is discriminatory and will hinder economic development efforts by discouraging businesses from coming to North Carolina.

    The bill passed in the House 75-42, with ten Democrats joining nearly all Republicans to reach the threshold of the needed 72 votes for a constitutional change. The Senate followed suit, reaching the three-fifth majority needed with a 30-16 vote along party lines. The issue is now in the hands of voters, where it will be included on the May 2012 primary ballot.

  • Term Limits for Legislators Stalled for Negotiations

    While the constitutional amendment limiting legislative terms did not pass this week, before adjourning week both House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger stated they believe the proposal constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in November of next year. Negotiations are needed on the length of the leadership term limits. The Senate passed legislation this week that would limit the House speaker and Senate president pro tem to no more than four straight two-year terms. The House however is pushing for a max of two terms, which was included in a bill the House passed in April.

    As negotiations ensue, the Senate leadership has indicated they will propose limiting the governor to a single four-year term to match their proposed two-term, four-year limit for legislative leaders. While House leadership has consistently made clear favoring some type of legislative leadership term limits, the House believes the limits can be accomplished with a statutory changes rather than a constitutional change and the limits should be shorter than the Senate proposal. Both the House and Senate seem optimistic that negotiations will be successful and the term limits question will be on the next November ballot.

  • State Board of Education Restructuring Delayed in the Senate

    The third amendment up for consideration this week in session would have restructured the State Board of Education. While the House approved the measure, the Senate did not take up the measure before adjourning. The amendment would make the state superintendent of public schools the chair of the State Board of Education and authorize the General Assembly to make appointments to the body. The state’s constitution currently gives all eleven appointees to the State Board of Education to the Governor and also requires the Lieutenant Governor and Treasurer to serve on the State Board of Education.

  • Lawmakers Pass “Changes” to Bills

    In addition to constitutional amendment issues, legislators approved three measures making changes to bills that were passed earlier this summer. Changes include clarifying state revenue officials’ powers related to the multi-state corporation” combined reporting”; new teen driving laws pushing back the date driving logs from October 1, 2011 to January 1, 2012 required for young drivers to record hours they drive before they get a full provisional license; and allowing bail bondsmen to access court records online for a fee.

What is Next?…Lawmakers Set to Reconvene on November 7th

Before leaving town, lawmakers adopted an adjournment resolution calling for the General Assembly to reconvene for a third special session on November 7th. The resolution permits consideration of a wide array of issues, ranging from election laws and gambling to hurricane disaster relief and the management of mental health care providers. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said the adjournment resolution was crafted so that legislators can address any issues that arise due to legislative and congressional redistricting. The legislative and congressional redistricting plans are currently awaiting federal pre-clearance as a part of the Voting Rights Act.

In addition, lawmakers are permitted to consider veto overrides, any bills currently in conference committees and any of the local bills pending in the House Rules committee, wherein procedure could permit the bills to be stripped of their current content and used as vehicles for other legislation.


New Appointments to House Budget Writing Committee

House Speaker Thom Tillis announced two new appointments to the House Appropriations Committee, which is known as the “budget-writing” committee this week. Rep. Jim Crawford (D-Granville) and Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) were named as the new co-chairs of the committee. The appointments come as Rep. Jeff Barnhart (R-Cabarrus) officially resigns his House seat, joining McGuireWoods Consulting on October 1st.