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Top Ten - #1; NCGA Procedures; How a Bill Becomes a Law; NC09 Hearing; Notable News
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Our Top Ten Action List: Issue #1 - NCGA Procedures

As we kick off our look at the 2019 Top Ten NC issues we've identified, we are starting with some basic good government policies at the NCGA. The procedures and administrative policies in place ultimately affect every issue across the board, and some are in need of revision. 

Committees are where the real action on a bill takes place. It's where all members should be able to debate and discuss the merits for, or against, the policies proposed. This is where cooperation and compromise are most important. However it is clear that committee membership is biased to the majority party to such an extent that other voices are silenced when it comes to critical legislation. 

Newly elected Senator Wiley Nickel explains this well in his Facebook post

"Democrats received a majority of OVER 50% of the statewide vote in 2018. Because of Republican gerrymandering we won only 42% of the seats in the state Senate.

The committee assignments give Senate Democrats just 35% of the seats on regular standing committees, AND new Republican Senators were given 4-5 committee assignments while freshman Democrats were only given 3 committee assignments each. Those of us who flipped six seats in the Senate have been relatively sidelined from the Senate committee process." 


Other procedural policies we'd like to see changed:

  • Have more notice provided - at least 72 hours for major bills and 24 hours for emergency sessions. Audio and video streaming should be available in all committee rooms, not just the large ones.
  • No gutting of old bills to insert new language with the intent of skipping over standard processes and avoiding bi-partisan input, as was done with the last statewide budget amendments.
  • End the use of "floaters", or extra majority party committee members who can show up at any meeting, whose purpose is to add additional weight in a committee vote to pass or suppress a bill. This policy was just re-introduced this month after being dormant for over a decade.
Simple good governance to improve transparency and equitable representation would increase voters’ confidence in North Carolina’s law making body. Achieving parity in committees, transparency and notice for sessions, and agreeing not to use committees as a subversion mechanism are all easily achievable by the NCGA. Making these changes would increase cooperation as well as be a big win for legislators in renewing their commitment to the people they serve – the people who call North Carolina home. 

Read our full post on these requests for the NCGA here, and please contact your representatives with these simple asks.

A Refresher on How a Bill Becomes a Law at the NCGA 


Key point: Lobbyists and legislators aren't the only ones who can influence legislation or draft a bill - Citizens and activist groups can too.
 

NC State BOE Public Hearing on NC09 Election Continues

If you've been following the NC09 election tampering hearing held by the NC State Board of Elections, you'll know the testimony from the first three days has been riveting, with witnesses confirming they were directed and paid by McCrae Dowless to gather absentee ballots, completed or not, and witness them in bulk and not always in the presence of the voter. Andy Yates, the consultant who hired and paid Dowless at the request of the Harris campaign, denied all knowledge of this as well as denying any knowledge of similar events in 2016, in which Dowless also played a part and ended up the subject of an episode of "This American Life". Hard to believe a savvy political consultant who received several hundred thousand dollars for his work was so naive. But he also never provided receipts or requested documentation from Dowless for the work he did. 

Today's bombshell came as Mark Harris' son, John Harris, a 29yo assistant US attorney, voluntarily produced emails showing that he warned his parents in advance about McCrae Dowless and what appeared to be an illegal ballot collecting scheme, based on his analysis of the 2016 primary absentee ballot data, when Dowless was working for another candidate. Harris of course has been on record for months now saying he knew nothing of these illegal activities and was never warned about them. Essentially, Mark Harris chose to believe those that told him Dowless would get the job done, instead of listening to his son who was advising him to steer clear. In a heartfelt closing today, John Harris stated that he loves his parents and believes that they were too trusting in people who were not honest with them. He also said that it is incumbent on all parties to transcend partisan politics and do better. 

In addition to examining the tactics used with the absentee ballots, the Board is also looking at the illegal exposure of the early voting results which occurred when the early votes were tabulated and seen by a number of people at the Bladen Co. BOE. Results are not supposed to be run until after the actual election day, since it could be shared with a campaign for a competitive edge. 

It has also now been shown that McCrae Dowless provided instruction to his workers, prior to this hearing, to deny all wrongdoing and stick together, so now an obstruction case will likely be considered on top of everything else.

What is important to remember is this is not a criminal court, just an investigative hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to show the results of the election should be questioned, and a new election called. It is pretty apparent by now that is the case, regardless of the specific number of votes and ballots in question. Also, the US House can have the final say if they do not agree with the actions taken locally. There is a representative from the House at the hearing this week. Even now after all of this evidence, the Harris camp is still pushing for his election to be certified.

Follow along by watching the live stream on wral.com or wect.com, or catch up on the latest from NPR here. You can also check Twitter and search #NC09 for updates. Mark Harris will take the stand at 9am tomorrow morning. The hearing is now expected to wrap up Thursday, with a decision then.

Notable News:

A new bi-partisan bill introducing an independent redistricting commission to draw new voting maps has been filed, in the form of a constitutional amendment. This may be our best chance to move forward on ending gerrymandering in NC. We will share more on this effort in two weeks when we review our Top Ten Issue / Fair Elections, but you can read the highlights here.  Find out which Republican legislators are in support here.  

There will be a press conference Thursday at 10am (tomorrow) at the NC General Assembly Press Room. You can listen in at www.ncleg.gov/Audio

Reps. Graig Meyer and Sydney Batch hosted a FB Live Town Hall on the Democratic #FightingForFamilies campaign. They cover a lot of the issues they hope to tackle this session and answer questions from viewers. Worth 20 minutes of your time!
The News & Observer's Curious NC project asked NC residents which 5 issues were most important to them. Turns out they all made our Top Ten list too! 
Governor Cooper has appointed Jaki Shelton Green, of Orange Co., as NC's newest poet laureate. She will be the ninth laureate, the first African-American and third woman to receive the honor. Congratulations to her!
Please share with the students in your community: There is a free, 2 day March For Our Lives legislative conference offered to youth interested in learning how they can be active in influencing gun legislation at the NC General Assembly - March 25th-26th. Learn more and register here. 
 
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Copyright © 2019
Stronger NC, Inc. All rights reserved.
Stronger North Carolina, Inc. is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that educates North Carolina citizens about issues affecting the electorate. Stronger NC is not affiliated with any political party and does not endorse individual candidates. 


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