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NASW-NC Postion on Constitutional Amendments

Thursday, August 9, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Valerie Arendt
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Constitutional Amendments: The Hidden Objectives

Kay Castillo, BSW, Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Legislation, Registered Lobbyist
Valerie Arendt, MSW, MPP, Executive Director, Registered Lobbyist

 

The North Carolina General Assembly adjourned on Friday, June 29th. The short session lasted for seven weeks and was packed with bills, behind the scenes budget development, and the passage of six Constitutional Amendments that will be on the ballot in November. Many of these amendments were passed as an effort to get voters to the polls (just like the Marriage Amendment in 2012!).


When voters go to the polls in November, in addition to choosing representatives to the state House of Representatives and Senate, U.S. House, judicial seats, county commissioners, school board members and sheriffs, they will also be asked to consider six proposed amendments that will fundamentally change the constitution of the State of North Carolina.


Though legislators adjourned at the end of June, they will reconvene on Tuesday, November 27th and will most likely discuss legislation that is influenced by which Constitutional amendments pass and clarify any vague language that is in the amendments.


NASW-NC’s official recommendation is to vote AGAINST all six constitutional amendments on the ballot. Many of the amendments being voted on do not need to be placed into the state constitution.

 

1. HB 551 Strengthening Victims’ Rights
Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime, to establish certain, absolute basic rights for victims, and to ensure the enforcement of these rights."

NASW-NC’s Recommendation: Vote AGAINST.

North Carolina citizens already have these rights under North Carolina law and while we see the importance of including the additions into state statute, no bipartisan amendments were allowed during the development of this amendment and it was drafted without funding considerations. Additionally, rights for juveniles were not outlined and could be violated if legislators do not specifically enact legislation protecting their confidentiality.

 


2. SB 677 Protect Right to Hunt and Fish
Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife."


NASW-NC’s Recommendation: Vote AGAINST.

North Carolina citizens already have these rights and they are currently regulated under North Carolina licensing requirements and certain state laws (like limitations for hunting on Sundays). The amendment also specifies that they have the right to use “traditional methods” to hunt and fish, a term not defined in state code. It also does not specify what wildlife can be hunted.

3. HB 913 Bipartisan Ethics and Elections Enforcement
Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority."

NASW-NC’s Recommendation: Vote AGAINST.

While this sounds like a good idea, this actually takes power away from the governor, weakening the balance of the executive branch of the North Carolina government. This hands power back to the legislature. All past North Carolina governors have come out against this amendment. This amendment is so bad that past attempts at changing the composition of the Board of Ethics and Elections were deemed unconstitutional by the North Carolina Supreme Court. So, the current legislature’s solution is to include it IN the constitution.

4. SB 814 Judicial Vacancy Sunset Amendment
Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to implement a nonpartisan merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence when nominating Justices and judges to be selected to fill vacancies that occur between judicial elections.”


NASW-NC’s Recommendation: Vote AGAINST.

Again, while this sounds great this actually reduces the power of the executive and judicial branch and shifts even more power to the legislature. Balance of power is critical to our democracy.

5. SB 75 Constitutional Amendment- Maximum Income Tax Rate of 7.0%
Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).”

NASW-NC’s Recommendation: Vote AGAINST.

This is amendment caps the state income tax rate at 7.0%. Originally, legislators had proposed a 5.5% cap. Currently, our Constitution caps income tax rate at 10% which is what it has been since 1936. Income tax is used to fund health and human services, public schools, public safety, roads and bridges. As social workers know, these services are essential to building strong and healthy communities. This cut would mostly benefit the wealthy and, to make up for the budget shortfall, there could be an increase in property and sales taxes which disproportionately impacts working class and low-income individuals. By placing this into the state Constitution, future legislators will have a hard time overturning this when taxes need to be raised to keep up with the growth in North Carolina.

6. HB1092 Require photo ID to vote
Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.” The legislation also directs the NCGA to develop laws governing the regulations needed in state law to oversee voter I.D.

NASW-NC’s Recommendation: Vote AGAINST.

We are really here again. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s strict voter ID law in 2017 after the court ruled it was intentionally designed to stop African Americans from voting. The State Board of Elections concluded in 2017 that out of 4.8 million votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, one fraudulent vote would have been thwarted by a photo ID. Mississippi is the only state in the U.S. that has a constitutional amendment for voter ID.


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