Pete's Prep: Monday, Aug. 6, 2018

NC Legislature overrides two more vetoes

The Republican-led legislature voted to override Democratic Governor Roy Cooper's latest two vetoes this weekend.

From the AP:

Although Republicans argue that Saturday’s laws will decrease confusion for voters, Democrats said GOP legislators are using them to hide from the public goals to consolidate Republican power within the legislative branch and help a state Supreme Court justice win re-election. 

There are two issues being contested here.

First, Democrats argue that voters cannot be expected to understand the explicit language from the proposed constitutional amendments. Their argument is, essentially, that if we see the precise language on the ballot we'll be so confused that we'll vote the wrong way.

Second, Democrats argue that a candidate should be allowed to change his party affiliation immediately before running for a judicial office, in order to deceive voters about his actual judicial philosophy.

They argue - more broadly - that party affiliation shouldn't be listed on judicial ballots. They say voters will research all the candidates and don't need the affiliations listed (even though listing the party leads to greater voter participation and more candidates filing for the races).

If you've noticed the blatant doublespeak here, you're probably not a member of the NC political press corps.

Democrats' position is that voters will be confused and unable to vote on constitutional amendments unless Democrats write descriptions that will appear on the ballot... but these same voters will do all the research into judge candidates if there is no R or D next to the candidates' names.

Republicans easily voted to override the Governor's vetoes.

"Eviscerate, mitigate, litigate, cogitate and agitate"

These five words have been the tactical focus of a panoply of leftist organizations since Republicans won control of state government for the first time in more than a century. These "Blueprint NC" organizations have repeatedly used the courts to block threats to their agenda.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats are suing over these two measures. It's part of what the Republicans call a "sue until blue" strategy.

The first amendment reworks the state elections board and "clarifies," according to General Assembly leaders, the legislative prerogative to control appointments currently made by the Governor's Office. Voters will be asked to vote for or against this statement without further explanation on the ballot:

"Constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority."

The executive branch and the legislature have sparred in court over appointment powers, and separation of powers issues more generally, in a series of lawsuits that go back to Gov. Pat McCrory's administration.

Senate Bill 814 largely shifts the power to fill vacant judgeships from the governor, who can currently pick just about any attorney, to the legislature. The governor would still make judicial appointments but would have to pick from two names forwarded by the General Assembly after a commission reviews potential candidates.

For this amendment, voters will vote for or against:

"Constitutional amendment to implement a nonpartisan merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence when nominating Justices and judges to be selected to fill vacancies that occur between judicial elections."

There is an argument between Republicans and Democrats over whether the way this underlying bill is worded would also give the General Assembly a loophole to circumvent gubernatorial vetoes without having to muster the three-fifths vote it takes now to override. GOP leaders said Saturday past legal precedent won't allow it and that it was never their intent to open this sort of loophole.

Also, the Democrat-turned-Republican candidate for state Supreme Court filed suit, too.

“This is a clear violation of my constitutional rights, and this bill is clearly targeted at me,” [Chris] Anglin told Carolina Journal. “I think we can already go ahead and declare victory because I’ve showed the folly of partisan elections, and I’ve also showed how the legislature is just making a power grab in order to support their own candidate, and get her elected at all costs.”

Of course, Anglin and his Democratic campaign manager have not proven the folly of partisan elections. They have proven how the General Assembly hastily wrote the law, and how easy it is for lawyers to exploit loopholes when a legislature does so.

But, wait! There's more!

Dr. Michael Bitzer takes a deep dive into who has changed party affiliation in North Carolina.

The ACLU endorses anti-Free Speech law.

Buncombe Sheriff's Deputies are facing criticism for detention and strip searches of two men.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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