Special Session Part II: "This Is as Serious as It Gets in North Carolina" | News

Special Session Part II: "This Is as Serious as It Gets in North Carolina"

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The House and Senate convened for the second special session of the day, and the fourth of the year, at 2 p.m. The House rules set a filing deadline of 7 p.m. for new bills to be filed (later amended to 7:30), while the Senate set a deadline of 3 p.m.

Here is the running list of bills filed. They include: a dog breeding bills, a bunch of education bills, a (very good) anti-racial profiling bill, and a few bills taking aim at the controversial I-77 toll.

Here's a big one: HB 17 requires Senate confirmation of Cooper cabinet appointees, among other UNC-related issues.

Two bills stick out, though:  a 43-page bill, co-sponsored by Chuck McGrady and Jimmy Dixon, called the "Regulatory Reform Act of 2016," which is a rehash of a bill that died in the last session. Among other things, Some counties (including Orange) won’t have to do fuel emissions tests, a lot of DEQ reports are going to be eliminated, and it looks like the government wants to start charging to fulfill public records requests.

But the big one so far is this: "Bi-Partisan Ethics, Elections, and Court Reform." Among other things, it expands the state Board of Elections to eight, with four picks by Cooper and two each by Moore and Berger. It also gives each party two seats on the county boards of elections.

Read it in its entirety here. 
Despite Speaker Tim Moore's claims that the idea for the session only came to fruition today, here's two reasons why he's lying: one, Senator John Alexander signed the petition to convene a second special session, and he's not even here today, and two:

Yes, Representative Tim Moore sent a letter requesting this special session to Speaker Tim Moore. Guess no one else wanted their name on this one.

Democrats are pissed. After both chambers reconvened, sparks understandably flew, as Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) announced he was filing a constitutional protest, joined by other Democrats. "This is why people don’t trust us," he reportedly said. "This is why they hate us."

"We came to Raleigh with one purpose: to pass a recovery bill that would provide some relief to the people still struggling months after Hurricane Matthew," Senate Democratic leader Dan Blue said in a statement. "Having achieved that goal earlier today, we don’t know what other pressing matters we need to address on behalf of North Carolinians.

“But our caucus is certainly interested in seeing what kind of surprise legislation Republicans will bring forth that focuses on improving the quality of life of North Carolinians," he continued. Anything beyond that is a pervasive insult to the taxpayers and to flood victims across this state. In our view, we have completed our business and should go home to enjoy the holidays."

Also worth noting: these things cost North Carolina taxpayers $42,000 per day. Assuming the session extends into tomorrow, that's $42,000 (or $84,000, if this session lasts until Friday) that could be going towards direct assistance for people affected by Hurricane Matthew; Senator Angela Bryant argued for more money dedicated to this during committee and floor speeches this morning.

Rep. Larry Hall said in a press conference that it's his understanding that the Senate and House are having a joint caucus meeting right now to put together an omnibus bill. Hall also said that whatever we come out of here with, would almost assuredly result in a court battle; Rep. Darren Jackson said he'd file a constitutional protest of the entire session itself.

"In the days of 1898, they had something called the Wilmington riots," Hall said. "In those days, it was by physical violence. We're in a new era today where the vote of the people of North Carolina is sought to be rendered meaningless by elected officials that are using legislative tactics. This is as serious as it gets in the history of North Carolina."

Rep. David Lewis, one of the architects of the legislative and congressional gerrymanders that were both ruled unconstitutional, gives Colin Campbell at the N&O more specifics:

“I think to be candid with you, that you will see the General Assembly look to reassert its constitutional authority in areas that may have been previously delegated to the executive branch,” Lewis said, adding that legislators will “work to establish that we are going to continue to be a relevant party in governing this state.”

Asked if legislation will change the governor’s appointment powers – including election board appointments – Lewis said “I think you’re on the right track, but I would not be able to comment on specifics.”

Sources say that one potential move concerning the Board of Elections could give control over county boards of elections to the party that won that county in the governor's race.

So far, only one new bill has been filed, to "modify the uses for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds." Yeah, we're not totally sure what that means, either. Expert political observer Greg Flynn has a comment on it, though:

Kristopher Nordstrom, an education fiscal policy analyst with the NC Justice Center, says it might actually be a good thing:

Take the current language with a grain of salt, though: It's equally as likely that this could be the framework they use to stuff a sweeping omnibus bill into later, a la the 'motorcycle abortion' bill.

Here's one indication, at least, of what the Senate plans on doing tomorrow:

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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