Senator Ralph Hise

Legislative Update
47th District, North Carolina Senate

312 Legislative Office Building, Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
Phone: 919.733.3460 E-Mail: Ralph.Hise@ncleg.net

Volume 8, Issue 7                                             July 2, 2018

 

The General Assembly adjourned Friday after a legislative short session that saw many accomplishments. We passed a budget that, among other things, delivered a fifth consecutive teacher pay raise, major tax relief to families and businesses, and significant pay raises to state employees, corrections officers and state troopers. We passed bills that protect North Carolina farmers, significantly expand early voting, improve election security and provide additional learning opportunities to thousands of children from low-income families across the state. Finally, we proposed six constitutional amendments, described below, that will go before the voters in November to decide whether they are permanently enshrined in the North Carolina Constitution. I am proud of all the Senate was able to accomplish over the past two months.

 

Photo ID Constitutional Amendment

Voters will choose whether to make North Carolina the 34th state to require ID at the polls, after the General Assembly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the November 2018 ballot.

If a majority of voters agree, the proposal will amend the state constitution to require that North Carolina citizens show photo identification in order to cast their votes in person.

Currently, North Carolina is the last state in the Southeast not to have some form of voter ID at the polls. Voter ID was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2008.

Polls have shown voter ID is hugely popular in North Carolina and across the country.

 Constitutional Amendment Cutting the Cap on N.C. Income Taxes

The General Assembly also approved a proposed constitutional amendment that will empower voters to decide whether to lower the state’s maximum possible income tax rate from 10 percent to seven percent. Senate Bill 75 will appear on the November 2018 ballot.

Since assuming leadership of the General Assembly in 2011, legislative Republicans have overhauled the state’s tax code, lowering rates and eliminating dozens of loopholes – resulting in the vast majority of North Carolinians keeping more of their own tax dollars. The changes have also helped create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and consecutive budget surpluses. If voters approve, the amendment will help ensure the state does not reverse course on those reforms and return to burdening North Carolinians with some of the highest taxes in the Southeast, as it did when Democrats last controlled state government in 2010.

Constitutional Amendment Establishing a Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections

Voters will choose whether to permanently establish a Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in our state’s constitution this fall.

House Bill 913 would establish an eight-member, bipartisan board to administer North Carolina’s ethics and elections laws, free from the influence from the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of state government. Polling showsnearly 80 percent of North Carolinians support a bipartisan approach.

Members of the bipartisan board would serve four-year terms and would be appointed by House and Senate leaders based on recommendations from leaders of both the majority and minority parties. The proposal makes clear that no more than four members of the board could be registered with the same political party, and that the balance of the board’s membership would not be directly impacted if control of the legislature switched from one party to another – ensuring that ethics and elections enforcement is not encumbered by partisan politics. Unaffiliated citizens would also be eligible for any position on the board.

Constitutional Amendment Establishing a Merit System to Fill Judicial Vacancies Between Elections

Voters will have an opportunity to amend North Carolina’s Constitution this fall to implement a non-partisan, merit-based system to fill judicial vacancies between elections.

Senate Bill 814, the Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment,, will allow voters to consider a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would:

·        Empower the people of the state to nominate candidates to fill judicial vacancies.

·        Authorize a non-partisan merit commission, appointed by the Chief Justice, the governor and the General Assembly, to evaluate those nominees and rate them based on their professional qualifications and merit.

·        Direct the General Assembly to review the qualified nominees submitted by the nonpartisan commission and forward at least two nominees to the governor for consideration.

·        Provide that the governor will appoint the nominee he or she considers most qualified to serve a provisional judicial term.

·        Require the appointed judge to stand for election following the governor’s appointment in order to continue holding the judicial office.

The Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment would not change the process for regular judicial elections. But it would end the practice of patronage judicial appointments like WRAL’s report of former Gov. Bev Perdue’s appointment of three of her employees to judgeships on her last day in office.

Constitutional Amendment to Expand Victims’ Rights

In bipartisan votes, the North Carolina Senate and House both passed legislation that will let voters consider a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot to expand the rights of victims of crime and their families.

A victims’ rights amendment was added to North Carolina’s Constitution in 1996, which gave some crime victims basic rights to participate in the justice system, butHouse Bill 551 further advances those rights by doing the following:

·        Expands the scope of crimes under which protections to victims are extended.

·        Requires that victims receive effective and timely notice of all court proceedings.

·        Expands victims’ rights to those victimized by juveniles.

·        Gives victims a greater voice in the process by allowing them to be heard at plea, conviction, sentencing, or adjudication hearings.

·        Creates an enforcement mechanism which allows a victim to file a motion with the court if they are being deprived of their rights.

While protecting the rights of victims, the bill makes sure that those rights do not infringe upon the rights of the accused.

Constitutional Amendment Protecting Right to Hunt and Fish

In bipartisan votes, both the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation that will let voters choose whether to amend the North Carolina Constitution to safeguard citizens’ right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.

 Senate Bill 677 had bipartisan support in both bodies, and voters will now consider the constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot. Twenty-one other states already guarantee this right in their constitutions.

General Assembly Overrides Governor’s Veto of Early Voting Expansion

The General Assembly recently voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 325, which would expand opportunities for voters to cast ballots during the earlyvoting period and direct counties to adopt a uniform schedule for early voting sites.

The bill would place early voting on a uniform schedule statewide of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, offering increased early voting hours during the week so North Carolinians have more opportunities to cast a ballot. It would require all voting sites in a county to be open during that county’s early voting hours, reducing confusion for voters as to where they can vote.  Finally, it would add an additional full day of early voting, moving North Carolina from 16.5 to 17 days of early voting.

Additionally, on Thursday, both the Senate and House passed House Bill 335 which restores the final Saturday of early voting.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to continue representing you in the North Carolina Senate. As always, please feel free to contact my office at any time with your concerns or questions.

Best regards,

Senator Ralph Hise

47th District

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