Redistricting in North Carolina: Democrats Find New Avenue of Attack Against Republicans

Redistricting in NC (flag pic)

by Diane Rufino, September 29, 2019

We’ve been hearing a lot about “redistricting” lately. In fact, we heard that a state court invalidated two of the popularly-mandated (that is, approved by voters in 2016) amendments to the state constitution (the one adding a photo ID requirement to vote and the other capping the state income tax at 7.5%) on the grounds that the bills giving rise to the amendments were the illegal products of an illegitimate NC General Assembly. The body was claimed to be “illegitimate” because several representatives were supposedly elected pursuant to improperly racially-gerrymandered district maps.

So what are we referring to when we talk about “redistricting”?

Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. Each of North Carolina’s 13 United States House representatives and 170 state legislators [120 for the House and 50 for the Senate] are elected from political divisions called districts. United States senators are not elected by districts, but by the states at large. District lines are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the United States census. The federal government stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.

I.  WHERE WE STAND (After Several Court Opinions) —

(1) On June 27, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Rucho v. Common Cause, finding that partisan gerrymandering claims, such as that made against North Carolina’s congressional district plan, present political questions that fall beyond the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary. As part of its ruling, the high court overturned a district court ruling that had struck down the state’s congressional district plan as an impermissible partisan gerrymander. The case was remanded back to the state court system.

(2) On September 3, 2019, in the case Common Cause v. David Lewis, a state court struck down North Carolina’s legislative district plan as an impermissible partisan gerrymander under the state constitution. Did you know that the state constitution requires districts to be drawn in a non-partisan manner? Clearly, those Democrats who were in power for over 110 years in the state, and who took their oaths to support the constitution, did not know it. Or if they did, they chose to violate those “apparent” provisions. Following the lead of a court in Pennsylvania which held that redistricting maps must be drawn on a non-partisan basis, the group Common Cause filed suit in North Carolina to challenge the 2017 redistricting maps drawn by a Republican-dominated General Assembly as being violative of the state constitution and its requirements for non-partisanship in elections.

Common Cause, a non-profit organization that claims to be “non-partisan,” was under the leadership of Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration and a rabid socialist, for 5 years – from 2013-2018.

Here are the state constitutional provisions that Common Cause referred to in their challenge to the 2017 redistricting maps:

The NC state constitution provides, in Article I (“Declaration of Rights”):

Article I, § 14 reads: “Freedom of Speech and Press. Freedom of speech and of the press are two of the great bulwarks of liberty and therefore shall never be restrained, but every person shall be held responsible for their abuse.” [Referred to in court rulings and in this article as the “Freedom of Speech” Clause of the NC state constitution].

Article I, § 12 reads: “Freedom of Assembly and Redress. The people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances; but secret political societies are dangerous to the liberties of a free people and shall not be tolerated.” [Referred to in court rulings and in this article as the “Freedom of Assembly” Clause of the NC state constitution].

The NC General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, Raleigh agreed with Common Cause. In their unanimous conclusion, issued earlier this month on September 3, the 3-member panel of judges (Judges Paul Ridgway, Joseph Crosswhite, and Alma Hinton) wrote:

The Freedom of Speech Clause in Article I, § 14 of the North Carolina Constitution provides that “freedom of speech and of the press are two of the great bulwarks of liberty and therefore shall never be restrained.” The Freedom of Assembly Clause in Article I, § 12 provides, in relevant part, that “the people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances.” The 2017 Plans, therefore, violate the North Carolina Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and assembly, irrespective of whether the plans violate the U.S. Constitution. [pp. 317-318]

North Carolina’s Constitution Protects the Rights of Free Speech and Assembly Independently from the Federal Constitution. The NC Supreme Court has held that “in construing provisions of the Constitution of North Carolina is not bound by opinions of the Supreme Court of the United States construing even identical provisions in the Constitution of the United States.” The NC Supreme Court has further held that the North Carolina Constitution’s Free Speech Clause provides broader rights than does federal law. In particular, the Court has held that the North Carolina Constitution affords a direct cause of action for damages against government officers in their official capacity for speech violations, even though federal law does not. [pg. 318]

In 2017, the US Supreme Court wrote: “By packing and cracking Democratic voters to make it harder for them to translate votes into legislative seats, the 2017 Plans “single out a subset of messages for disfavor based on the views expressed. This is the essence of viewpoint discrimination.” Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744, 1766 (2017, Kennedy concurring). NC Republican legislators (defendants) drew the 2017 Plans in a way that deliberately minimized the effectiveness of the votes of citizens with whom they disagree (ie, Democrats).  [pg. 326]

Question: Isn’t the historically accepted exercise of re-districting by the political party in power to “minimize the effectiveness of votes cast by citizens with whom they disagree”?   I think everyone has come to accept this as the permissible consequence of election outcomes. “Elections have consequences.” How many times have we heard this? The Supreme Court itself has made this statement in its opinions.

In their opinion, and as they wrote, “it is the carefully-crafted maps, and not the will of the voters, that dictate the election outcomes in a significant number of legislative districts and, ultimately, the majority control of the General Assembly.”

The judges concluded that the 2017 Redistricting Plan violate the Freedom of Speech and Assembly Clauses by discriminating on the basis of viewpoint. They went on to conclude that the Plans violate the Clauses for an independent reason. “In addition to forbidding discrimination, those clauses also bar retaliation based on protected speech and expression.” [pg. 329]. Furthermore, they concluded that “partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable under the North Carolina Constitution” (pg. 341).

They ultimately concluded and ruled: “There is no reasonable doubt the 2017 House and Senate Plans are unconstitutional under the North Carolina Constitution, and the Court enjoins their use in the 2020 primary and general elections…..” (pg. 347)

The ruling went on to require:

“The Court will require that Remedial Maps for the House and Senate legislative district maps for the 2020 election (hereinafter “Remedial Maps”) be drawn (within 2 weeks), and that the Remedial Maps comply with the criteria adopted by the General Assembly’s House and Senate Redistricting Committees on August 10, 2017, with several exceptions, including the following:

(1) In redrawing the relevant districts in the Remedial Maps, the invalidated 2017 districts may not be used as a starting point for drawing new districts.

(2) “Election Data” criteria shall not be permitted in the drafting of the Remedial Maps. In other words, partisan considerations and election results data shall not be used in the drawing of legislative districts in the Remedial Maps. The Court likewise will prohibit any intentional attempt to favor voters or candidates of one political party.

(3) The Court will require Legislative Defendants and their agents to conduct the entire remedial process in full public view. At a minimum, that would require all map drawing to occur at public hearings, with any relevant computer screen visible to legislators and public observers. Given what transpired in 2017, the Court will prohibit Legislative Defendants (ie, Republican legislators) and their agents from undertaking any steps to draw or revise the new districts outside of public view.”

**** Reference::  Opinion of the NC General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, Raleigh (September 3, 2019), which is 348 pages in length – https://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/athena/files/2019/09/03/5d6ec7bee4b0cdfe0576ee09.pdf

The new maps were drawn up on September 17. They were reviewed and ratified by a court-appointed referee the same day. The non-partisan house legislative plan and map was ratified as H.B. 1020 and the non-partisan senate legislative plan and map was ratified as S.B. 692.

(3) North Carolina’s House of Representatives comprises 120 districts; North Carolina’s State Senate comprises 50 districts. The responsibility for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines lies with the state legislature (NC General Assembly). District maps cannot be vetoed by the governor.

II.  THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR DRAWING UP DISTRICT MAPS FOR ELECTIONS 

As we all know, there are two general types of elections in our country – federal elections and state elections. The US Constitution and federal law provide the legal guidelines and requirements for drawing up districts for federal elections (ie, for US congressional districts). The state constitution and state laws provide the legal guidelines and requirements for state elections (for state house and senate districts).

A.  FEDERAL ELECTIONS & FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE REDISTRICTING

According to Article I, Section 4 of the US Constitution, the states and their legislatures have primary authority in determining the “times, places, and manner” of congressional elections. Congress may also pass laws regulating congressional elections.

The US Constitution provides:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Snators.” [Article I, Section 4]

Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution stipulates that congressional representatives be apportioned to the states on the basis of population. There are 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives. Each state is allotted a portion of these seats based on the size of its population relative to the other states. Consequently, a state may gain seats in the House if its population grows or lose seats if its population decreases, relative to populations in other states.

In 1964, the US Supreme Court ruled in Wesberry v. Sanders that the populations of House districts must be equal “as nearly as practicable.” This is where we get the general rule “One Person, One Vote.” In fact, the equal population requirement for congressional districts is strict. Any district with more or fewer people than the average, representing even a 1 percent deviation, will most likely be unconstitutional.

B.  STATE LEGISLATIVE REDISTRICTING —

The US Constitution is silent on the issue of state legislative redistricting. However, in the mid-1960s, the US Supreme Court issued a series of rulings in an effort to clarify standards for state legislative redistricting. In Reynolds v. Sims, the court ruled that “the Equal Protection Clause [of the 14th Amendment] demands no less than substantially equal state legislative representation for all citizens, of all places as well as of all races.”

The following is a list of recent redistricting bills that have been introduced in or passed by the North Carolina state legislature.

NC H717 – Judicial Elections Changes. “An Act to revise the judicial divisions; to make certain adjustments to the assignment of counties to the superior court, district court, and prosecutorial districts; to clarify listing of judicial seats on the ballot; and to limit rotation of superior… “ 6/28/2018: Ch. SL 2018-121

NC S209 – Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission. “An Act to establish a nonpartisan redistricting process……”   6/21/2018: Re-ref Com On Rules and Operations of the Senate

NC H927 – 2017 House Redistricting Plan A2. “An Act to realign the districts for the election of the members of the North Carolina house of representatives…..” 8/31/2017: Ch. SL 2017-208

NC S691 – 2017 Senate Floor Redistricting Plan (4th Ed.) “An Act to realign the districts for the election of the members of the North Carolina Senate…..”   8/31/2017: Ch. SL 2017-207

NC S692 – Adjourn August Redistricting Session & Reconvene. “A JOINT RESOLUTION adjourning the session reconvened pursuant to Section 2.1 of Resolution 2017-12, as amended by resolution 2017-14, and further amending RESOLUTION 2017-12.”   8/31/2017: Ch. Res 2017-15

NC H677 – Amend Who Can Serve on Three-Judge Panel. “An Act to provide that district court judges may be appointed to serve on three-judge panels for actions challenging the validity of Acts of the General Assembly…..” 4/21/2017: Passed 1st Reading

NC H735 – Redistricting by Computer. “An Act to amend the North Carolina constitution to establish an independent redistricting commission to redistrict via computer software programs utilizing politically neutral criteria to district….. “   4/13/2017: Ref To Com On Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House

NC H674 – Independent Redistricting Commission. “An Act to amend the constitution to establish an independent redistricting commission…..” 4/11/2017: Ref To Com On Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House

NC H714 – Fair Redistricting Study Committee. “An Act to create the Joint Legislative Study Committee on Fair Redistricting……” 4/11/2017: Ref To Com On Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House

NC S554 – Fair Redistricting/Postmark & Absentee Ballots. “An Act to create the Joint Legislative Study Committee on Fair Redistricting and to provide that absentee ballots received by a county board of elections by mail on the day after the election that are not postmarked are deemed to have been postmarked……” 4/3/2017: Ref To Com On Rules and Operations of the Senate

NC H200 – Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission. “An Act to establish a nonpartisan redistricting process…..” 2/28/2017: Ref To Com On Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House

Up until the case Common Cause v. David Lewis, no mention had been made of any state constitutional requirements to the process of state legislative redistricting. Litigation using this approach is just another desperate act of a dying political party to protect any power possible at the ballot box (power denied to Republicans for over 110 years). The Common Cause case, being unanimous in its opinion, opens a whole new line of litigation in the national battle over partisan gerrymanders.

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause of North Carolina had this to say about the court ruling: “The court has made clear that partisan gerrymandering violates our state’s constitution and is unacceptable. Thanks to the court’s landmark decision, politicians in Raleigh will no longer be able to rig our elections through partisan gerrymandering.”

Here is an interesting question: If the NC state constitution requires non-partisan state legislative districts, as Common Cause and Democrats allege, why did the NC General Assembly feel the need to pass the 2017 law, NC H674. NC H674 (“Independent Redistricting Commission”) was intended to amend the NC constitution to establish an independent redistricting commission in order to guide the Senate Redistricting Committee in designing redistricting plans to ensure they are as non-partisan as possible.

III.  THE STATUS OF NC HOUSE and SENATE REMEDIAL DISTRICT MAPS —

Pursuant to the Common Cause v. David Lewis ruling of September 3 and its order to draw up new, non-partisan maps, the NC General Assembly, under the watchful eye and subject to approval of a court-appointed referee, adopted remedial maps on September 17. The non-partisan house legislative plan/map was ratified as H.B. 1020 and the non-partisan senate legislative plan/map was ratified as S.B. 692.

Republican leaders declined to challenge and appeal the ruling.

Speaking for the Republican members of the General Assembly, Senate leader Phil Berger said in a statement to Charlotte-based station WBTV: “The decision contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent…. Nearly a decade of relentless litigation has strained the legitimacy of this state’s institutions, and the relationship between its leaders, to the breaking point. It’s time to move on. To end this matter once and for all, we will follow the court’s instruction and move forward with adoption of a nonpartisan map.”

The reason for the decision not to challenge the ruling may be two-fold: First, under the new maps, the Republican party will continue to control a majority of both chambers of the General Assembly. And second, if Republicans had decided to appeal, there is really a good chance that the ruling would stand, given that Democrats control North Carolina’s Supreme Court.

Voters are urged to contact their county Boards of Election, or to review the maps provided by the General Assembly (online, see the Reference section for the links) to confirm which state districts they have been assigned to for the 2020 primaries and the 2020 general election.

IV.  POTENTIAL LEGAL CHALLENGE to the VOTING RIGHTS ACT of 1965 —

I think the climate is ripe for a legal challenge to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Essentially, Section 2 mandates that district lines cannot be drawn in such a manner as to “improperly dilute minorities’ voting power.”

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 reads:

SEC. 2. No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.

In 1982, Congress examined the history of litigation under Section 2 since the bill’s passage and concluded that Section 2 should be amended to provide that a plaintiff could establish a violation of the section if the evidence established that, in the context of the “totality of the circumstance of the local electoral process,” the standard, practice, or procedure being challenged had the result of denying a racial or language minority an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

First of all, the language of Section 2 is constitutionally vague, and has been so, under our political system. The truth is that African-Americans have been, and continue to be, almost completely identified with the Democratic Party. It is said that approximately 90% of African-Americans identify with the Democratic Party, if not higher. And so I say that the language of Section 2 is constitutionally vague because it assumes that any standard, practice, or procedure related to voting that affects African-Americans does so specifically and only because of the color of their skin. It makes no room for the possibility that a particular law, practice, procedure, standard, etc that affects them has the goal of addressing a political party or political views, just as it would affect others of the same political persuasion, and NOT to affect them because of their skin color. A “just” law must make room for legitimate reasons for its passage.

And so, I believe Section 2 should be amended accordingly.

Section 2 should be amended to provide that a plaintiff could establish a violation of the section if the evidence established that, in the context of the “totality of the circumstance of the local electoral process,” the standard, practice, or procedure being challenged had the primary or sole purpose, as well as the intended objective, to deny a racial or language minority an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

Second of all, Section 2 provides a strong incentive to perpetuate racial stereotypes and racial victimization (ie, the “race card”) in voting.

Third, it offers a tremendous legal protection to the Democratic Party.

Here is my concern. The Voting Rights Act was drafted and passed to protect the voting rights of African-Americans. This was the piece of legislation specifically designed to address the many violations of African-American voting rights, as recognized and secured by the 15th Amendment. In fact, in 1980, the Supreme Court held that Section 2, as originally enacted by Congress in 1964, was a restatement of the protections afforded by the 15th amendment. [See Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55 (1980)]. Under that standard, a plaintiff had to prove that the standard, practice, or procedure was enacted or maintained, at least in part, by an invidious purpose.

As mentioned earlier, at least approximately 90% of African-Americans identify with the Democratic Party. So in effect, because Section 2 protects African-Americans unconditionally, it protects the interests of the Democratic Party outright. Now, the over-all goal of re-districting, at least in our current time, is NOT to suppress black voting OR to give blacks special protection. It is race-neutral. It is concerned with party affiliation only. Only a moron would think otherwise. Yet that’s the position that Democrats and African-Americans routinely take. They take the position not because they know it to be true but because it’s politically expedient. They know that race matters; they know that racial challenges are taken seriously. They know that lawyers being turned out of today’s liberal law schools are indoctrinated in social justice and see it everywhere – even when it doesn’t exist. The true goal of re-districting is to draw up district maps in a way that favors the election of the reigning political party. “Elections Have Consequences.” Maps can be re-drawn by Republicans to disfavor registered Democrats and to favor Republicans, and that would theoretically be allowed. Similarly, if Democrats have the majority in General Assembly, they too can re-district to favor their party. And they have, when they were in power. This practice has been an accepted one since the end of the 1700’s.

But look at the situation through the lens of Section 2. If Republicans re-district and the group of voters (registered Democrats) affected happen to be white, then no harm no foul. The re-districting is permissible. The disgruntled white Democrats have no recourse. But if those same registered Democrats just happen to have black skin, then it’s a whole different ballgame, right? Suddenly they have a cause of action under Section 2. They immediately have a cause of action. They can sue the government body; they can challenge the restricted maps as being impermissible gerrymandering, And chances are that they will be successful in court.

But the truth is this: Republicans are not looking at skin color at all – only political party affiliation. Democrats are Democrats. A white vote for a Democratic candidate is no different from a black vote for a Democratic candidate. And so Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, although passed for an honorable and a neutral purpose, as applied since the 1960s it is a strong legal tool that benefits only one political party – the Democratic Party. And so it is used exactly as such – as a legal tool to advance party interests.

Regarding Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, I believe it is ripe for a legal challenge. In the alternative, the US Congress can alter its language, as suggested above. The purpose of the challenge or the amending of language must be to get rid of Section 2 as a political tool of the Democratic Party and to get rid of the baseless claims made for no other reason than to undermine the Republican Party or to perpetuate the false notion that racism exists insidiously in our country today.

 

References:

“Redistricting in North Carolina,” Ballotpedia. Referenced at: https://ballotpedia.org/Redistricting_in_North_Carolina

Rucho v. Common Cause (decision: June 27, 2019), Supreme Court Opinion. Referenced at: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/18-422_9ol1.pdf

Case Review, Rucho v. Common Cause (decision: June 27, 2019). Referenced at: https://ballotpedia.org/Rucho_v._Common_Cause

Rucho v. Common Cause (August 27, 2018), ruling from the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (lower federal court). Referenced at: https://electionlawblog.org/wp-content/uploads/MDNC-Opinion.pdf

Common Cause v. David Lewis (judgement, Sept. 3, 2019), NC General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division – Wake County. Court ruling referenced at:  https://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/athena/files/2019/09/03/5d6ec7bee4b0cdfe0576ee09.pdf

Brennan Center for Justice, “A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting,” Brennan Center for Justice. Referenced at: http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/CGR%20Reprint%20Single%20Page.pdf

“Redistricting Cases Heard by the Supreme Court of the United States,” Ballopedia. Referenced at: https://ballotpedia.org/Redistricting_cases_heard_by_the_Supreme_Court_of_the_United_States

House Bill 1020 (H.B. 1020), “2019 House Remedial Plan.” (Ratified Sept. 17, 2019). Referenced at: https://ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/H1020

Remedial House Map (Non-Partisan Map) of Sept. 17, 2019 – https://webservices.ncleg.net/ViewBillDocument/2019/6558/0/HB%201020,%202nd%20Edition%20-%20HB%201020%202nd%20Edition

Senate Bill 692 (S.B. 692), “2019 Senate Consensus Nonpartisan Map.” (Ratified Sept. 17, 2019). Referenced at:  https://ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/Senate/PDF/S692v4.pdf

Remedial Senate Map (Non-Partisan Map) of Sept. 17, 2019 – https://webservices.ncleg.net/ViewBillDocument/2019/6583/0/SB%20692,%202nd%20Edition%20-%20Senate%20Consensus%20Nonpartisan%20Map%20v3_11x17

 

APPENDIX I: GERRYMANDERING

The term “Gerrymandering” refers to the practice of drawing electoral district lines to favor one political party, individual, or constituency over another. When used in a rhetorical manner by opponents of a particular district map, the term has a negative connotation but does not necessarily address the legality of a challenged map. The term can also be used in legal documents; in this context, the term describes redistricting practices that violate federal or state laws.

The phrase “Racial Gerrymandering” refers to the practice of drawing electoral district lines to dilute the voting power of racial minority groups. Federal law prohibits racial gerrymandering and establishes that, to combat this practice and to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act, states and jurisdictions can create majority-minority electoral districts. A majority-minority district is one in which a racial group or groups comprise a majority of the district’s populations. Racial gerrymandering and majority-minority districts are discussed in greater detail in this article.

The phrase “Partisan Gerrymandering” refers to the practice of drawing electoral district maps with the intention of favoring one political party over another. In contrast with racial gerrymandering, on which the Supreme Court of the United States has issued rulings in the past affirming that such practices violate federal law, the high court had not, as of November 2017, issued a ruling establishing clear precedent on the question of partisan gerrymandering. Although the court has granted in past cases that partisan gerrymandering can violate the United States Constitution, it has never adopted a standard for identifying or measuring partisan gerrymanders.

There is more information on Gerrymandering at this link – https://ballotpedia.org/Gerrymandering#Partisan_gerrymandering

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Meet Mark Robinson, Candidate for NC Lieutenant Governor

MARK ROBINSON - for NC Lieutenant Governor (head shot)

by Diane Rufino, September 20, 2019

Yesterday, the Republican Women of Pitt County and the Pitt County GOP held a joint monthly meeting to hear candidate for NC Lieutenant Governor, Mark Robinson.

We know there are several candidates who have already declared their campaign for NC Lieutenant Governor, such as Buddy Bengal (NC Education Lottery Commissioner), Scott Stone (former state rep), Andy Wells (current state senator), Greg Gebhardt (NC National Guardsman and army vet), Deborah Cochran (former mayor of Mount Airy), and Renee Elmers (disgraced former US congresswoman from district 2). And then there is Mark Robinson. Mark stands out from the other candidates for one very special reason – he is not a politician, he has no political experience, and he has no money. He is a businessman, a man who has worked in the furniture industry. He is simply an ordinary citizen who has finally had enough of the nonsensical liberal policies that are threatening his precious liberties, he has dared to push back against city government in a very vocal and public way, and he wants very badly to use his enormous voice and his unbridled passion to represent the good and decent law-abiding citizens of our state against the looney left. Mark is exactly the type of candidate that our Founders envisioned – a citizen servant. A person of the community who steps up to serve to make sure government remains accountable to the people it serves and respects the rights it is obligated to secure, and then goes back to his community to resume his business.

So who is Mark Robinson? Mark, the man, is a strong Christian and a strong conservative. He believes government is best when it governs least. His devout faith and the experiences of his life have shaped who he is and how he thinks. Mark, the candidate, is running as defined by 4 categories. He puts them in order this way: He is running first and foremost as a Christian, then he is running as an American (“Notice I did not say African-American. I am simply an American. I was not born in Africa, I have no relatives in Africa, I have not visited Africa, and when my ancestors were brought over here on slave ships, no one from Africa tried to stop them and no one from Africa came to America to fight to bring them back home.”), then he is running as a Conservative, and finally, he is running as a Republican. How he identifies himself says a lot about who he is as a man and who he is as a candidate.

We first took notice of Mark back in April 2018 when he stood up defiantly against the Greensboro City Council and delivered a passionate and heartfelt speech on the right to bear arms. The speech was captured on video and went viral, being viewed close to a million times (according to Mark). Those few minutes in front of the Greensboro City Council, and those words and those sentiments were enough to catch the attention of FOX News, other news outlets in the US, and news outlets and groups all around the world. He was invited on FOX & Friends, he was interviewed by Lara Trump, and has visited and spoken all around the country (as far west as Las Vegas) and all around the world (as far east as Germany).

What did Mark say to the Greensboro City Council? Here is the transcript of his remarks:

“I heard a whole lot of people talking here tonight about this group and that group, about domestic violence, about blacks, and about this minority and that minority. My question is this: When are you going to stand up for the majority? And here’s who the majority is – I’M THE MAJORITY !! I’m a law-abiding citizen who never shot anybody, who never committed a serious crime, and who never committed a felony. I’ve never done anything like that. But it seems that every time we have one of these shootings, nobody wants to put the blame where it belongs, which is on the shooter. You want to put the blame on me. You want to turn around and restrict my right – my constitutional right that is spelled out in black and white. You want to restrict my right to buy a firearm to protect myself from some of the very same people you’re talking about here tonight. It’s ridiculous. I don’t think Rod Serling could have come up with a better script. It does not make any sense. The law-abiding citizens of this community and in many communities around this country are the first ones taxed, the last ones considered, and the first ones punished when things like this happen because it’s our rights that are being taken away. That’s the reason why I came down here today. Gun Show or no Gun Show, NRA or no NRA… I’m here to stand up for the law-abiding citizens of this community because I’m gonna tell you what’s going to happen…. The Crypts and the Bloods on the other side of town are not going to turn their guns in. They’re gonna hold onto them. What gonna happen when you send the police down there to take them? The police can barely enforce the laws as it is. From what I see, we demonize the police, we criminalize and vilify them and make the criminals into victims. And we talk about restricting guns?? How are we going to do that? How are we going to enforce the law when the police are already hamstrung? You’re not going to be able to go down there and take the guns away from these criminals. So the criminals are going to hang onto their guns. They’re still gonna have them. They’re still gonna break into my house and they’re still gonna shoot me with them. And guess who’s gonna be the one who suffers? It’s gonna be me.

Well, I’m here to tell you tonight that it is NOT going to happen without a fight. And when I say ‘fight,’ I don’t mean shots fired and I don’t mean fists thrown. I mean I am going to come down here to this City Council and raise hell just like those lunatics from the left do until you listen to the majority of the people of this city. I AM THE MAJORITY. The majority of the people in this community are law-abiding and they follow the law and they want their Constitutional right to bear arms. They want to be able to go to the Gun Show and buy a hunting rifle or a sport rifle. There are no military-grade weapons sold at a gun show. An AR-15 is not a military-grade weapon. Anybody who would go into combat with an AR-15 is a fool. It’s a semi-automatic 22 rifle. You’d be killed in 15 minutes in combat with that thing. We need to dispel all these myths and we need to stop all this division because the bottom line is that when the Second Amendment was written, whether the Framers liked it or not, they wrote it for everybody. AND I’M EVERYBODY! And the law-abiding citizens of this city are Everybody. And we want our rights and we want to keep them. And by God, we will, come hell or high water !”

We like what we heard from him at that Greensboro City Council meeting and we like what we heard from him yesterday at the joint Republican Women of Pitt County/ Pitt County GOP meeting. By all indications, he is the real deal.

NC General Assembly Republicans Seize the Opportunity to Make Good on the Promises Made in the State Budget

NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY - House Chamber

by Diane Rufino, September 16, 2019

In June, the Republican-dominated General Assembly passed a state budget that included pay increases for our public school teachers and for non-certified school personnel, pay increases for teachers in the state community college system, pay increases in general for state employees, pay increases for state highway patrol, ample funding for our transportation system and for disaster relief, and changes to our state tax laws. Republicans were proud of the promises made to the people of our state and proud that they were, for the most part, able to do the right thing without having to raise the budget to any significant degree or to increase state funding. Refer to sections (a) thru (f) below, noting the horrendous provision included to cater to Democrats in section (b).

Despite all the good in that budget, Governor Cooper went ahead and did the unthinkable – he vetoed it. His despicable act threatened the promises made in that state budget. Luckily in North Carolina, a provision was passed in 2016 to provide that if a budget is not approved, the previous budget remains in effect, keeping spending at current levels. Without the new budget, teachers would not see their new increase in pay, state highway patrol officers would not see their pay increase, state employees would not see their pay increase, etc.

And so, the question that remained this summer was whether Republicans would be able to find a way to override the Governor’s veto and to make good on those promises. Would they be able to wrangle enough votes from Democratic lawmakers to reach the magic number of 3/5 of a majority (even though it seemed they were far from realizing that option)? Would they be able to work with Democrats to come up with a compromise that Governor Cooper would approve of (including Medicaid expansion, of course). Even though Republicans promised they would never give in on such a fundamentally unconservative issue. Would a different opportunity present itself (such as a legislative session where limited numbers of Democrats fail to show up)?

On June 27, the NC Senate passed House Bill 699 (HB-699), also referred to as the “2019 Appropriations Act” or more commonly, the “Budget Bill,” by a vote of 33-15. The bill then went to the state house where it passed by a vote of 64-49. The Budget Bill was, by almost all accounts, an excellent (but not perfect) budget proposal did not increase the state debt and which included pay increases and improved benefits to certain state workers.

The 2019-2021 spending plan (HB-699) included the following:

(a) A slight increase from the previous state budget. The 2019-20 budget of $23.9 billion represents an increase of $689 million from the 2018-19 budget, and the 2020-21 budget of $24.9 billion represents a 4% increase from the FY 2018-19 budget.

(b) Instructed that $14 billion be used in the first year and $14.3 billion in the second year to fund education related programs throughout the state. Laid out in the education section of the budget, teachers, assistant principals, and school principals would see salary increases at an average rate of 4.6%, 6.3%, and 10% respectively. An additional $30 million in FY 2019-20 and $53.2 million the following year would be used to fund five School Safety Grants: one for school resource officers, services for students in crisis, school safety training, safety equipment in schools, and additional school mental health support personnel. The budget would eliminate the current classroom and teacher supply fund and replace it with a $15 million appropriation annually to establish the Teacher Directed Classroom Supplies Allotment that would allow teachers to use an app to purchase textbooks and other supplies specifically for their classrooms. Sadly and very disappointingly, a provision (a Democratic initiative) was included that would lower the grading scale to be used in the state’s public school system to measure school performance, changing the weighting of the school achievement component to 51% and the school growth component to 49%. It substitutes the 10-point grading scale (with a failing grade of 64) with a 15-point grading scale (with a failing grade of 49). Starting this school year, it will take very little effort for a student to meet the state’s new “competency” criteria.

(c) Includes pay increases for state highway patrol and for state employees.

(d) Medicaid Transformation projects will receive a nonrecurring appropriation of $232.9 million in FY 2019-20 and $198.4 million in 2020-21 in order to support the efforts of transitioning the state to a managed care system. Additionally, the Health and Human Services portion of the budget allocates $150.2 million and $11.4 million in respective years of the biennium to pay for the runout of claims for individuals transitioning to managed care.

(e) The Department of Transportation will receive $98 million in additional funds for the contact resurfacing of roads and other general maintenance projects. The budget also allocates approximately $58 million in funding for Rail Infrastructure efforts and includes provisions to remove restrictions specific to light rail projects. $15 million recurring dollars from the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund will be used for the GREAT grant program to help bring broadband providers to rural areas of the state.

(f) The budget contains several provisions to change North Carolina’s tax laws. Multistate corporations would be required to calculate their sales based on the percentage of their income that is due to products and services provided throughout the state. Tax and regulatory relief would also be granted to out-of-state businesses conducting disaster related work in North Carolina after a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Florence.

On June 28, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the budget. He vetoed the budget for one reason and one reason only – to hold salary increases hostage in order to coerce the General Assembly into passing an acceptable Medicaid Expansion bill. He was intent on having Medicaid available for all those who needed it in North Carolina, including illegal aliens. It was a sickening exercise of political power, of partisan politics, of executive bullying, and of political extortion.

If the budget had passed, the members of the General Assembly would have had the opportunity to go home for the summer. Instead, they were forced, out of an obligation to their constituents and an obligation to their oath of office, to remain in Raleigh to figure out a way to make good on their promises. They knew, as it stood, they did not have the votes necessary to override the Governor’s veto. They would certainly need some Democrats to cross party lines to join them, and that would likely not happen (given the actions of the Democrats with the Born Alive Survivors of Abortion Protection Act). Many may recall how Republicans tried a piecemeal approach to the budget – passing individual conference reports and bills to meet the pay increases promised to individual state employees. In fact, they passed 3 conference reports, one to provide the proposed pay increase to our state highway patrol, another to provide the proposed pay increase to state employees, and the third to provide the proposed pay increases to state Bureau of Investigation and Alcohol Enforcement officers. An independent bill was passed to provide the proposed pay increases to public school non-certified employees and college professors and employees, and to provide bonuses for retirees.

No one can accuse a Republican lawmaker of not being tireless and dedicated to their position.

Note, though that none of the piecemeal reports or bills provided for a pay increase for public school teachers. I believe this was intentional. Although Republicans (not Democrats) had already given teachers six consecutive salary increases, teachers (organized by their so-called “union”) have continued to protest at the General Assembly demanding higher and higher pay. They never thank Republicans (indeed, they don’t even know what Republicans have done on their behalf) yet when Democrats were in power and never ever increased their pay, the same teachers never made a stink. I believe the Republicans wanted teachers to know that it was Governor Cooper alone who prevented them from enjoying a pay increase and didn’t want to help him escape the consequences of his despicable veto. I believe they wanted Governor Cooper to feel the heat from teachers – hoping, of course, that teachers would finally travel to Raleigh to condemn a Democrat and to protest at the Governor’s mansion.

That didn’t happen… No surprise there.

On September 11. Republicans in the General Assembly finally were able to make good on the promises they made in the 2019-21 appropriations bill. They were able to seize on an opportunity in the state house to take a vote to override Cooper’s veto. And exactly what was that “opportunity”? As Republicans noticed when they walked into the house chamber that morning, there were hardly any Democrats present, even though they had an obligation to be present for a scheduled vote. In fact, there were only 15 Democrats present at the time the session commenced.

The override vote passed, along strict party lines by a vote of 55-15. The veto override vote now sits with the Senate.

Immediately after the override vote was taken, house Democrats began to cry FOUL Rep. Deb Butler, one of the 15 Democratic house members to show up for the vote, screamed: “Speaker Moore, I will not yield. I will not yield….. I will not yield.”

But was their any duplicity or scheming involved in the override vote?   Absolutely not.  In fact, Republicans refer to their decision to take the override vote as an “opportunity,” while Democrats refer to it as “villainous” and “unfair.”

Here is what happened:

On September 10, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett county) was standing in for House Speaker Tim Moore, who was not in Raleigh. On the house floor that day, he read two bills into the record which would be considered by the body the following day – at 8:30 am. In other words, two bills were read into the calendar. Those bills were Senate Bill 118 (S.118), a prison safety bill, and Senate Bill 429 (S.429), a disaster recovery bill. At every legislative session, any bill that is remaining on the calendar (that is, still waiting for some action to be taken) can be taken up, depending on the discretion of the speaker or acting speaker. In fact, notice of the veto override was properly noticed and published on the House calendar, as it has been for nearly 2 months. Every legislator knew this. In fact, Speaker Moore had reminded members of the House repeatedly that whenever he saw that we had the votes to effect the override, he would call for the vote.

To emphasize, after Chairman Lewis announced his intention to take up the two bills, he announced a start time of 8:30 am for Wednesday for the house session. Lewis, House Speaker Tim Moore (who would be returning to the legislature the following day), present members of the House, and staff, were all planning to hold recorded votes on bills on the published calendar for Wednesday’s morning session.

The Minority Leader, Rep. Darren Jackson, asked if the vote on those two bills could be delayed until Wednesday afternoon to give Democrats a chance to consider them in caucus. (As you’ll note later, this was most likely a ruse to cover up what Democrats already had planned for the morning…..)   Acting Speaker Lewis agreed to allow the delay and said there would be no votes on those two bills until Wednesday afternoon.

This is a very important detail to grasp.

Rep. Lewis told Rep. Jackson he would delay the vote on S.118 and S.429 until the afternoon but he did NOT cancel the morning house session. He had made clear the day before that they would be voting on bills (and not just those two bills). Jackson apparently had mistaken what Lewis said to conclude that there would be no voting at all in the morning session. That begs the question then – Why even have the session? Why didn’t Speaker Lewis cancel it? If the session wasn’t cancelled, then there was clearly house business to address, including bills to be voted on and possibly, yes possibly, some calendar bills to re-visit.

Every night, the General Assembly (GA) publishes its calendar for consideration the following day. So, for those legislators who just happened to be absent and did not physically hear the bills to be addressed, they are able to receive proper notice by going to the GA calendar. And so, by the end of the day on September 10, the GA calendar listed the bills (S.118 and S.429) that it would take up the next day. Also on the calendar were those additional bills still waiting for action. Representatives who checked with the calendar would have also seen that a morning session was still scheduled, and it was to begin at 8:30 am.

As Republicans entered the house chamber on the morning of Wednesday the 11th, they noticed that there were barely any Democrats present. In fact, they noticed only 9 Democrats. At that point there were only 51 Republicans. This was a concern since legislators need a quorum to conduct business, and that quorum is 61 members. It was possible that the session would be cancelled. As both Representatives Keith Kidwell and Larry Pittman commented: “None of us, including the Speaker, had any idea when we came in for that 8:30 session on Wednesday morning, that the opportunity to override the budget veto would occur that morning.” They knew that only 51 of their members were present (out of a total of 65), and only a handful of Democrats were there, so there was no way they could have planned to vote on the override with less than 61 of House members present.

But then, as Kidwell recalls, the door opened and 4 more Republicans walked in and 6 more Democrats. That brought the total to 55 Republicans and 15 Democrats, which totaled 70 representatives and a quorum.

At this point, Republicans consulted House Speaker Moore about taking the override vote. The truth is that Republicans had always been looking for an opportunity to pass an override vote when Democrats let their guard down. That opportunity just happened to present itself on September 11th, while Democrats were off doing things they either weren’t permitted to do or otherwise shouldn’t have been doing.

Now, if Democrats were truly enraged and concerned about the override vote, there were two possible courses of action that could have been taken:

(1) The Democrats could have left the house floor, except for 1 member. This way, there would have only been 56 representatives and certainly not enough to conduct official business. The lone Democrat would be left to challenge any vote that the speaker attempted to take (“No Quorum !!”)

(2) Democrats could have coordinated their action and each rose to debate the bill (“I rise to debate the bill”), being allowed 5 minutes each. They could have continued with stalling tactics, all the while desperately attempting to wrangle more fellow Democrats to the house chambers. [As it turns out, as explained later, there were many Democrats in the building, in a session violating a court order, and they knew they could easily be reached and could easily be rounded up].

Instead, as Pittman explains, Rep. Deb Butler chose to begin a very disorderly temper tantrum at acting Speaker David Lewis, contrary to all rules of decency and decorum. Other Democrats went around the chamber, turning on microphone lights of numerous other members who were not there, videoing Rep. Butler, and even joining in with her childish display of yelling at Speaker Lewis so that we could not hear all that he was saying in the attempt to restore order. In the midst of her shouting, Rep. Butler revealed that many of the Democrats (those on the House Redistricting Committee, as it turned out) were together “downstairs right now trying to redraw partisan heavy maps.” So, in effect, Rep. Butler was trying to say that it was unfair of Republicans to take a perfectly legal vote, which was within the rules, while her Democrat colleagues were downstairs violating the court order about redistricting, which clearly prohibited anyone from drawing maps anywhere but on the committee floor, in public view, where that committee was dealing with that matter. In all the commotion, only nine of the Democrats voted, NO of course, and the other six were too busy throwing a hissy fit to vote. Those six were allowed to be recorded as voting “Nay” later on, during the afternoon session.

Rep. Pittman commented similarly on Rep. Butler’s behavior and accusations: “So I guess it was unfair for us to take a vote while they were breaking the law.”

Despite the video coverage of Rep. Butler screaming and admitting that Democrats, in fact, were in a meeting in direct violation of the court order, Democrats had the audacity to try backtracking and to try to cover up her admission. They began spreading the story that house Democrats had been at a 9/11 memorial service, and how dare the Speaker hold a vote when it should have been observing the date out of respect. As it was later revealed, only one Democrat member was actually at a memorial service at that time. To make matters worse for Democrats, House Minority Leader Jackson had confirmed in a press conference that in fact Democrats had been in a redistricting committee meeting planned that morning.

The failure of Democrats to show up at the 8:30 am session was likely the fault of House Minority Leader Darren Jackson. Misinterpreting what Speaker Lewis said the day before about delaying the votes of S.118 and S.429, Rep. Jackson told fellow Democrats that they didn’t need to be at the 8:30 am session. Rep. Jackson later admitted this to Rep. Larry Pittman. He said he felt the debacle was really his fault.

So, as Rep. Pittman explains it: “There you have it. The Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for losing a 55-15 vote to override the Governor’s veto of the budget. Furthermore, there were a number of them who wanted to vote with us who were not there.”

The truth is that there were likely several Democrats who would have voted with Republicans to override Governor Cooper’s veto. After all, pay increases are a great way to earn loyalty from their voters. But as we all know, Cooper has been playing hardball with his Democratic legislators, much the same way that President Obama did in DC with his Affordable Care Act. Cooper had been putting a lot of pressure on them to vote as he demanded. We saw that with the Born Alive Survivors of Abortion Protection Act, where he coerced Democrats to vote against the bill and to uphold his veto. To pressure Democrats into voting his way, Cooper would invite them to the Governor’s Mansion and introduce them to individuals who he said he would endorse and support as their primary opponents. It is not a far stretch to imagine that several Democrats are secretly happy that the over-ride vote went down as it did. They could claim that it was all a mistake (blaming Rep. Jackson), avoid making a very unpopular vote, and still take comfort in the fact that their districts will get the benefits coming to them in the budget.

In the end, Republicans stayed the course, kept their eye on the prize, remained committed to their promises, and were able to override the despicable veto of an outstanding state budget.

House Republicans, we thank you. You make us proud and remind us that we did the right thing by voting for you and sending you to Raleigh to represent us and our values.

 

References:

Dennis Van Berwyn – An Overview of the Override Vote

House Bill 966 (HB966), the “2019 Appropriations Act,” Lexologyhttps://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=d10fff97-5727-492d-969c-5afe1ade9d87

House Bill 966 (HB966), the “2019 Appropriations Act,” ncleg.net https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/h966   and https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/House/PDF/H966v7.pdf (bill text)

“Conflicts Between Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly of North Carolina,” Ballotpediahttps://ballotpedia.org/Conflicts_between_Gov._Roy_Cooper_and_the_General_Assembly_of_North_Carolina

NC General Assembly website – www.ncleg.net

North Carolina State House, Ballotpediahttps://ballotpedia.org/North_Carolina_House_of_Representatives

North Carolina State Senate, Ballotpediahttps://ballotpedia.org/North_Carolina_State_Senate

 

APPENDIX I: (The NC General Assembly)

A.  Make-Up of the General Assembly

The North Carolina House of Representatives is comprised of 120 members. Currently, Republicans hold a majority, 65-55. They lost 10 seats in the 2018 election. In the 2017-2018 session, Republicans held a supermajority – 75-45. The House Speaker is Rep. Tim Moore.

The North Carolina Senate is comprised of 50 members, of which Republicans hold the majority – 29-21. They lost 6 seats in the 2018 election. The Senate Pro Tempore is Senator Phil Berger.

The Governor has the power to veto any bill that comes to his deck for a signature. If the legislature feels strongly about the bill and is strongly opposed to the reasons the Governor provided to support his veto, both chambers can vote to override the veto. A vote equivalent to 3/5 of those in attendance in the chamber at the time of the vote (provided a quorum is met) is required by each chamber to override the veto.

If the General Assembly does not pass a budget or if the budget bill is vetoed by the Governor (without an override), there is a provision in North Carolina law that allows the previous budget to remain on in place until a new budget is approved. In other words, this stop-gap measure allows the state to run with a budget at all times. This “autopilot” law was enacted in 2016, inspired by a lengthy 2015 standoff between legislative leaders and then-Gov. Pat McCrory. The law creates an automatic continuation budget (ie, the prior budget remains in effect) such that spending remains at current levels.

B,  Background

With the 2018 election, Republicans lost their supermajority in the chamber. Democrats gained 10 seats, reducing the Republican majority from 75-45 to 65-55. [A Republican supermajority simply means that as long as Republicans vote strictly along party lines, they are always able to automatically over-ride a Governor’s veto]. The requirement for over-riding a veto is that a 3/5 majority in each chamber is needed.

North Carolina has a divided government, meaning that government power is shared, by a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances, between the Governor and the executive Council of State (executive branch), the General Assembly (legislative branch), and the state court system (the judicial branch). Sometimes a political party is able to hold a state government “trifecta” which means that the party controls the Governor’s office and a majority of the Council of State positions, a majority in the state house, and a majority in the state senate. Currently, no political party holds a state government trifecta. (The Republican Party held such a trifecta with the 2016 election – Pat McCrory as a Republican Governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the legislature). As of September 17, 2019, there are 22 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 14 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control. In the 2018 election, Democrats had a net gain of six trifectas and Republicans had a net loss of four trifectas. Prior to that election, there were 26 Republican trifectas (of which North Carolina was one), eight Democratic trifectas, and 16 divided governments.

APPENDIX II: (Promises to NC Teachers)

(1) The pay increases included in the 2019-2021 state budget (HB966) represent the 8th and 9th consecutive pay increases to public school teachers by REPUBLICANS in the NC General Assembly.

(2) When Democrats held control of the NC General Assembly, teachers hardly ever received a pay increase. Even for five years prior to the historic political shake-up in the NC GA (when Republicans gained the majority), teachers never saw a pay increase; their pay remained stagnant.

(3) The average teacher pay in 2017-2018, thanks to the Republicans, was $53,975.00.

(4) Since Republicans have held the majority in the General Assembly, North Carolina has enjoyed the third fastest-rising teacher pay in the country.