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Senate Select Committee wants to go back to Civil War-Era Judicial System

The Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting focused their second meeting on the judicial selection process and possible reforms to NC’s judiciary. The Committee hosted three guest presenters during the December 6 meeting, Dean Brinkley and Professor Orth from the UNC School of Law and Alicia Bannon from the Brennan Center at NYU. The UNC Law professors explained North Carolina’s judicial history while Bannon explained different judicial selection processes and her recommendation for our state.

It was apparent the Senate Committee members wanted to give the General Assembly the power to appoint judges. The last time North Carolina’s legislators had that power was in the Civil War-era. The experts said this method undesirable because it can be a political and opaque process that leads to nepotism. However, senators liked the idea of going back to a process developed when only landowning white men could vote. Senator Hise proceeded to argue with his question that only the General Assembly should be given any power – perhaps the most honest statement of lawmakers’ real intent in their attempts at judicial reform:

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North Carolina Legislator Profile: Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe, Watauga)

In this Real Facts Legislator Profile, we focus on Rep. Jonathan Jordan, the Republican Representative from District 93. He was first elected in 2010 in a victory decided by fewer than 800 votes. He currently chairs the committees on Education, Homelessness, Foster Care and Dependency, the House Select Committee on Administrative Procedure Laws, and House Judiciary III. Jordan, an attorney, spent two years as the first research director at the conservative John Locke Foundation from 1997-1999, a 501(C)(3) research institute that espouses conservative ideals. He also served as the director for a tax-exempt pregnancy care center in Ashe County with the primary purpose of pseudo-science anti-abortion counseling. When he ran in 2010, Art Pope and outside groups flooded money into his campaign in a Koch-sponsored effort to flip the state legislature. Since his election, Jordan has pushed Pope ideals at the expensive of working people in North Carolina. Read more on Jordan here.

(NCFEP, Spending by Outside Groups in North Carolina General Assembly Races, 2010 Election Cycle, retrieved 6/21/12)
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North Carolina Legislator Profile: Rep. Chris Malone (R-Wake)

In this Real Facts Legislator Profile, we focus on Rep. Chris Malone, the Republican representative from District 35 and Deputy Majority Whip for the 2017-2018 legislative session. He was first elected in 2012 and currently serves as the chair of the Wildlife Resources Committee and the Appropriations on Health and Human Services Committee and vice chair of the Appropriations Committee. Malone’s political career started over 15 years ago as a Wake Forest Town Commissioner in 2001. He was on the Wake County School Board in 2009 until his resignation in 2012. During his time on the school board, he was called a “hard-liner” who “served without distinction.” As a Representative, Malone has sponsored bills that aimed to restore partisan judicial elections and bar federal Medicaid expansion. After being delinquent at least 25 times paying them, Malone tried to repeal motor vehicle renewal and property taxes – while voting to raise sales taxes on working families. Read more here.

Summary

  • Since 2002, Malone has been delinquent on personal property taxes at least 25 times
  • During his time on the school board, he:
    • was accused of burglary following an alleged affair with another board member, supported private school vouchers
    • looked to install less expensive heating, cooling, and ventilation systems in schools
    • worked to replace diversified schools with neighborhood schools
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ICYMI: Senate Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting

The Senate Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting had its first meeting on November 8 – where they were given presentations by HB 717 sponsor Representative Justin Burr, Brad Fowler of the Administrative Office of the Courts, and Judges Joe Buckner, Brad Letts, Joe Crosswhite, Michael Crowell, and Gerry Cohen.

Republican Senator Dan Bishop asked Burr outright if his new maps were part of “some evil partisan plot” or an intentional “racial gerrymander” after extending his sympathies to Burr in hopes that his feelings have not been hurt by the negativity surrounding HB 717.

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Council of State to Dan Forest: Call me, beep me

The Lieutenant Governor of NC doesn’t have a lot to do under the state’s Constitution. The few formal constitutional duties assigned include serving as President of the Senate and on the Council of State. 

Despite this, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has been busy this year traveling the state from the mountains to the coast. He also hasn’t missed opportunities to leave the state, even if they interfere with his few Constitutional duties. 

Today, Dan Forest was again absent from the meeting of the Council of State. Forest had to be called in for the October meeting, but this morning, his voice was conspicuously absent from the phone.

 

Council of State Meeting, Tuesday, November 7, 2017
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14 S P O O K Y things the Republican-led NCGA has done

It was (probably) midnight, and hiding under the cover of a racial gerrymander, the Republican-led General Assembly passed laws that hurt the people of North Carolina…

Thankfully, the good witches (and wizards) of the court struck down 14 of those such laws that as unconstitutional, restoring some order to the spooky state.

Not to be foiled again, Republicans began an attack on the courts, at the same time opposing a court-appointed special master who would remedy the racial gerrymander after refusing to submit names for consideration. 

At Real Facts we hope this scary tale will come to an end soon, but before it does, see if you can read all the way through these 14 frights: 

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Republican’s evolving efforts to politicize the courts

Republicans have released various (and often conflicting) plans for reforming the judiciary. The House has passed a court stacking gerrymander that would flip courts to majority Republican – similar to their unconstitutional gerrymandering of their own districts.

Senate leaders have dangled a vague proposal that will give the legislature “a key role in appointments” of judges in an attempt to convince members of the legal community that this could be a form of their long-sought selection method of judicial appointment.

Alternatively, the Senate last week introduced a proposal that would invalidate the terms of duly elected judges and put all 403 judges and justices on the ballot in 2018 after a constitutional amendment during the primary election.  In a TV interview, Senate President Pro TemBerger’s chief advisor claimed that this is not a bargaining tool to garner support for an appointment process.

The details of Berger’s chosen method of selection have remained vague. In a statement to the News & Observer, he said that the process would be similar to the process that Cooper “once championed.”

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Big business investment in big lobbying in North Carolina appears to be paying dividends

We’ve already covered the revolving door of lawmakers resigning from the General Assembly only to return to Raleigh a few months later. Former House Majority Leader Mike Hager started his own lobbying firm, Hager Strategic Solutions, shortly after his ‘cooling off period.’ Former house rules chairman, Tom Apodaca registered as a lobbyist in 2017 and started his firm, Vista Strategies. He has already amassed clients including Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Cable Telecommunications Network. Thom Goolsby also has his own firm, with clients including the NC Small Business Association and the Education Freedom Alliance.

In order to get a sense of exactly how much money lobbyists were funneling into North Carolina, we looked at reports issued by the Secretary of State from 2007-2016. In 2016, $45,307,721.63 was spent on lobbyists in North Carolina. This number is striking because, despite the fact that 2016 was an election year and therefore a “short” session, it is only a few hundred dollars fewer than 2013 spending and well exceeds 2014 levels. In 2015, more than $49 million was spent on lobbying the North Carolina General Assembly, compared to the just over $20 million spent just five years earlier. The overall trend is clear. Moneyed interests are spending more and more on lobbying the North Carolina legislature.

NC Lobbying Expenditures 2007-2016

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Legislator Profile: Scott Stone and Andy Dulin (R-Mecklenburg)

In the next two installments of Real Facts NC's series of legislator profiles we focus on Charlotte-area representatives Scott Stone and Andy Dulin. 

Stone was appointed to the District 105 seat by former Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016 and is currently serving his first full term after winning the election in November. Before serving in the NC House, Stone had tried and failed at least three times to enter the world of politics: he ran for the Arlington County Board in 1996 and ran for Charlotte mayor in 2011 and 2015. Rep. Scott Stone did not think the NCGA should change HB2 until Charlotte changed its own ordinance, even though HB2 cost Charlotte at least $100 million and he opposed all parts of Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance, including protection for LGBT community. Stone claims he is concerned about education, but supported a Republican budget that shortchanges NC teachers and students. Read more on Stone here

Similarly, Dulin was elected to the District 104 seat in 2016 and is currently serving his first full term. Before serving in the NC House, Dulin tried and failed at least three times to enter the world of politics outside the Charlotte City Council. He ran for the Mecklenburg County Commission in 2004, ran for NC Senate in the 2008 primary, and Congress in 2012. Dulin is an out-of-touch member of Charlotte’s elite, putting his own advancement above the will of constituents and pushing the needs of corporations over students and teachers. Additionally, Dulin supported a measure that would make nondiscrimination ordinances subject to referendum less than a year after HB2 cost Charlotte millions. Read more on Dulin here

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