WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

General Assembly changing the rules in middle of game

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In case you haven’t noticed, the Republican faction running North Carolina’s legislature doesn’t play well with others. If the game isn’t going their way, they’re likely to flip the board over and try to change the rules.

Case in point: The brouhaha over state constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

The GOP leadership is still very, very disappointed in the voters for electing as governor a known Democrat, Roy Cooper, back in 2016. Not that it matters much; with veto-proof majorities in both houses — thanks to creative redistricting — the Republicans routinely ignore Cooper by overriding his vetoes.

But he does rile them a bit. So the Republicans came up with a package of amendments, basically to turn the governor into a figurehead and North Carolina into a parliamentary state.

One amendment would transfer most of the governor’s appointment powers for state boards and commissions to the legislature. Another would mandate that the legislature, not the governor, fill vacant judgeships between elections.

A couple of other amendments — such as one creating a constitutional right to hunt and fish by “traditional” methods except when the state tells you how and when you can and can’t — seem tailored to draw out the Republican base in a year when the Democrats appear to be riled themselves.

In any rate, it’s a shady business, and voters should approach these proposals with extreme caution, probably holding their noses while they do so.

But here’s the latest twist. Under a bill that the Republicans passed just two years ago, the captions and wording of the amendment proposals get written by a three-member state commission. Members are the secretary of state (currently Elaine Marshall), attorney general (Josh Stein) and legislative services officer (Paul Coble). Like the governor, both Marshall and Stein are known, flagrant Democrats. Although they seem to be honorable souls, the Republicans don’t trust them a lick. On the other hand, as a professed Republican, Coble fits the bill just fine.

So, before the commission could do the very work the legislature gave it just two years ago, the GOP chieftains summoned the honorable assembly to Raleigh and back into session last week. The majority wasted no time and voted to bypass the commission, opting to do the work themselves. The Republicans, bless their hearts, said they were worried that the commission was being “politicized.”

Of course, no one should be surprised that Berger, Moore and Co. changed the rules mid-game — again, a rule that apparently was hunky-dory two years earlier. The GOP leadership at the legislature is growing more and more flagrant.

Which makes this fall’s election all the more vital. It could well be the last time all North Carolina voters have a chance to make a real difference in state politics.

Six statewide ballot measures passed the General Assembly and now go to the voters this fall for consideration. If voters approve an amendment, details of how it would be implemented would not be clear until written and approved as a statute. North Carolina does not allow citizen-initiated ballot measures.

• Right to Hunt and Fish: Creates a constitutional right to hunt and fish.

• Marsy’s Law Amendment: Expands the constitutional rights of crime victims.

• Legislative Appointments to Elections Board and Commissions: Makes the legislature rather than the governor responsible for appointments to state commissions.

• Judicial Selection for Midterm Vacancies: Creates a process involving a commission, legislature and governor to appoint to vacant state judicial seats.

• Income Tax Cap: Changes cap on state income tax from 10 percent to 7 percent.

• Voter ID: Requires a photo ID to vote in person. Guidelines for implementation and what forms of ID are accepted would not be decided until after the amendment is approved.

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