Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — In an unexpected twist, the North Carolina legislature is on the brink of taking up several proposed constitutional amendments Thursday, even though initial plans were for debate and votes on the amendments to be postponed until late August or early September.
If the schedule change goes through, it would cap a busy week in which lawmakers addressed redistricting and veto overrides. The House voted Tuesday to reverse Gov. Bev Perdue’s vetoes of two bills — the first altering governance of the state’s unemployment agency, the second establishing a 24-hour waiting period and other stipulations before an abortion.
The House also tried to override Perdue’s veto of the voter ID bill, but Republicans fell five votes short of the needed three-fifths majority. The Senate voted last week to override Perdue’s veto on six bills.
It’s not clear which proposed amendments lawmakers would take up during this hastily arranged session. The following bills could be among the top tier, because they already have been voted out of the House:
• House Bill 8, Eminent Domain: Would prevent local governments from taking private property for nonpublic uses, such as to increase tax revenue. It also requires just compensation in eminent domain takings, and gives property owners the right to have a jury set compensation. Passed the House in April 98-18.
• House Bill 61, Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits: Would restrict the number of terms a lawmaker can serve as either chamber’s top leader. Passed the House in April 72-46.
• House Bill 823, Governance of the Dep’t of Public Instruction: Among other changes, would make the Superintendent of Public Instruction the chair of the State Board of Education. Passed the House in May 106-10.
House Bill 777, Defense of Marriage, is another proposed amendment expected to be a top priority. It would specify that marriage “is the union of one man and one woman at one time,” and that “no other relationship shall be recognized as a valid marriage” by the state. A companion bill is in the Senate.
The marriage amendment has 62 co-sponsors in the House, and two of its primary sponsors are Democrats — Reps. James Crawford of Granville County and Dewey Hill of Columbus County.
A three-fifths majority vote of the entire legislature — 72 votes in the House, 30 in the Senate — is needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Gov. Bev Perdue can’t affect the outcome because the state’s chief executive can’t veto proposed amendments. After gaining lawmakers’ approval, any amendments winning that support from both chambers would appear on the general election ballot in 2012 for voters’ final OK.
David N. Bass is associate editor of Carolina Journal.