Legislative News by Nelda Holder –
The legislative version of redux is trying the patience of any number of North Carolina citizens and Statehouse watchers, not to mention a large number of advocacy groups and even some of the legislators themselves.
In 2016, the last year of the 2015-2016 biennium, the North Carolina General Assembly held one regular and five special sessions. Obviously this in-and-out practice was attractive to the leadership (while keeping the general public on their toes), and the 2017-2018 two-year cycle saw the leadership deviate from the norm of one long session in its first year. Instead, they set a calendar that simply continued the session with interspersed breaks for home.
Following the January 11 opening, they reconvened on January 25 for the normal work of producing a state budget. They worked for five-and-a-half months, then adjourned June 30 with an announcement by Speaker of the House Tim Moore that they would be “in and out for the rest of the year.”
The elected representatives of the “part-time” legislature returned August 3 to approve (under a court-mandated schedule) new legislative districts. The new district maps were immediately met with strong opposition, and additional legal action may be forthcoming, depending on the U.S. District Court’s opinion of the redrawing. Other business enacted included a far-reaching environmental bill that repeals the 2009 Outer Banks ban on plastic shopping bags.
This second gathering adjourned August 18 with a stated plan is to reassemble October 4, when the district maps may be reconsidered and the following matters could see action, per Senate Joint Resolution 692:
- Revising judicial divisions of the state, including superior and district court divisions and apportionment of judges
- Revising districts for cities, counties, and other political subdivisions
- Revising Senate and Representative districts and apportionment
- Proposing amendments to the North Carolina Constitution
- Statutory and transitional changes to implement bills
- Overriding gubernatorial vetoes
- Action on gubernatorial nominations or appointments
- Filling of vacancies of positions
- Providing for impeachment pursuant to Article IV of the NC Constitution
- Changing election laws
- Acting on local bills that have passed third reading
The list would seem to offer a full plate of potential legislation, late in the season and long in implication.
Time for local voting, and here are some basics
Asheville will hold an October 10 primary election to determine final candidates for the office of mayor and three city council seats. The eventual Asheville office winners will then be determined through the November 7 election.
To be eligible to vote, you must be a city resident and must have registered by September 15 at 5 p.m., OR you must appear at the one-stop voting site (Board of Elections Office, 77 McDowell Street) to complete a registration form. Proof of residence must be presented (valid documents showing current name and address).
One-stop voting for the primary begins September 21 and takes place Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. There will be Saturday voting on October 7 from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Absentee voting by mail begins September 10; you may request a form from the BOE at PO Box 7468, Asheville NC 28801; or by calling (828) 250-4200. Forms are also available on the election services website: http://www.buncombecounty.org/vote. Absentee ballots must be received in the elections office by 5 p.m. on October 10 (or by Friday, October 13, if postmarked no later than October 10). Additional time is available for military and overseas citizens (contact the Board of Elections at the above number).
The final selection of mayor and council members will take place on Tuesday, November 7, with voting in your assigned precinct from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. On the general election day, other local elections will take place in Black Mountain (mayor and alderman), Montreat (commissioner), Weaverville (mayor and council), Woodfin (alderman), and Woodfin Sanitary Water and Sewer District (trustee). Early voting information is not yet available for the general election.
Know this about the state’s voting law
In North Carolina, persons awaiting trial for a misdemeanor or felony are eligible to vote. That eligibility extends to persons who are serving a misdemeanor sentence. Anyone convicted of a felony, however, temporarily loses citizenship rights including the right to vote, so any prior registration before conviction is cancelled by the county Board of Elections. Any attempt to vote while an active felon is, itself, a felony. But after completing all the terms of sentence (including parole, probation, and post-release supervision), your citizenship rights are automatically restored and you may register to vote again (or for the first time).
Nelda Holder is the author of The Thirteenth Juror – Ferguson: A Personal Look at the Grand Jury Transcripts. Read Holder’s blog, www.politicallypurplenc.com