NCGA Week in Review: Constitutional Amendment Spotlight

September 30, 2016

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ICYMI Political News

Legislative Races to Watch

On Wednesday, the North Carolina Civitas Institute released new insights on the 20 legislative races to watch in NC, focusing on the races that could potentially end the GOP supermajorities in the House and Senate. Notably, eight of those races are located in Wake County. The Civitas Institute uses voter behavior data from previous presidential elections to establish a partisan index for each district, highlighting districts with less predictable behaviors. 

Interim Committee Meetings

House Select Committee on Education Strategy & Practices

The House Select Committee on Education Strategy & Practices met on Tuesday where they discussed competency based learning, college readiness and the use of remediation in higher education.

Follow this link to view all of the presentations made at Tuesday’s meeting. The committee will meet again on October 18.

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services

On Tuesday, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services held their first meeting of the interim and heard several updates from the Department of Health and Human Services and legislative staff.

Follow this link to view all of the presentations made at Tuesday’s meeting. The committee will meet again on October 11.

Legislative Research Commission Committee on Regulatory and Rate Issues in Insurance

Yesterday the Legislative Research Commission Committee on Regulatory and Rate Issues in Insurance met to discuss the complexities of property insurance rate making in NC.

The committee heard from Ben Popkin, Director of Government Affairs for the Department of Insurance, on three issues concerning property insurance: consent to rate, an overview of rate making and the ratemaking appeals process.

Additionally, Gina Schwitzgebel of the Coastal Property Insurance Pool presented an overview to the committee. The Coastal Property Insurance Pool covers 18 coastal counties in the state where properties are at higher risk of being damaged due to natural disasters.

Legislative Demographics Spotlight

History of the Legislature’s Demographics

History of African Americans in the General Assembly

During the reconstruction era, African American men served in the state legislature as part of a biracial Republican and Populist majority. Black politicians gained power in the legislative branch, in local governments and at the federal level – George Henry White, an African American from Bladen County, was elected to US Congress in 1894, where he served two terms. During this time, the Red Shirts, a Democratic paramilitary group worked actively to disenfranchise the black vote through poll taxes and literacy tests and ultimately an estimated 75,000 black men lost the vote until the 1960s. Congressman White, and other black politicians lost their voting base and quickly lost political power. There were no black legislators in the General Assembly by 1904.

Following the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African Americans began voting in the state again and Henry E. Frye was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1969. Henry Frye served in the NC House from 1969 till 1980, representing Guilford County, and served a subsequent term in the state Senate before being appointed to the state Supreme Court.

The legislative Black Caucus has grown steadily following Frye’s election, there are currently 33 African American members of the General Assembly. In 2009, black membership was at its highest with 34 African American legislators. 

Click here to read more about African Americans in the General Assembly.

History of Women in the General Assembly

North Carolina initially rejected the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 and it was not until 1971 that the legislature voted to symbolically ratify the amendment. Despite a strong campaign by anti-suffragists, the first woman was elected to the House in 1921, Lillian Clement won her primary campaign before the 19th Amendment was ratified. Clement, an attorney from Asheville, was the first woman to serve in any state legislature in the United States, at the age of 26, she served one term before retiring. There are 39 women currently serving in the General Assembly. 

Click here to read more about women in the NC General Assembly.

History of Other Minorities in the General Assembly 

  • There have been two Hispanic members of the General Assembly to date, former Representative Daniel McComas, became the state’s first Hispanic member of the General Assembly when was elected in 1995 and served until 2012.  
  • Three openly gay people have served in the legislature, Julia Boseman, the first, was elected to the Senate in 2004.
  • The first Jewish legislator was elected in 1809, Jacob Henry served during a time when legislators were bound constitutionally to affirm the “truth in Protestant religion.” The General Assembly has not kept consistent records of religious affiliation. The most recent Jewish legislator, Josh Stein resigned from the Senate to run for Attorney General.

Current Legislative Demographics

The NC Senate is currently:

  • 26% female with seven Democratic female members and six Republicans.
  • 22% African American with 11 Democratic African Americans.
  • There are two Asian Americans in the Senate, Sen. Michael Lee and Sen. Jay Chaudhuri. 
  • Sen. Tom Apodaca, who recently resigned, is Hispanic.
  • 11 members of the Senate have prior military experience.

To read more about the demographics of the current state Senate, including education, military experience, and religious affiliations, click here.

The NC House is currently:

  • 21% female with 14 Democratic female members and 12 Republicans.
  • 18% African American with 22 Democratic African Americans.
  • There is one Native American in the House, Rep. Charles Graham, who is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of NC.
  • Rep. Kyle Hall is currently the youngest member of the legislator, he celebrated his 26th birthday this month. 
  • 25 members of the House have experience in the military, including two members who are presently serving.

To read more about the demographics of the current state House, click here