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Vote down legislature's power-grabbing amendments

North Carolina Ballot Battle

Former North Carolina living ex-governors, from left, Jim Hunt, Mike Easley, Jim Martin, Bev Perdue and Pat McCrory, headline an Aug. 13 news conference opposing proposed amendments to the North Carolina constitution.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

The General Assembly really wants to amend the state constitution. Legislators really want to get their words on the ballot, so you can ratify them in November and allow those words to permit lawmakers to take more control of your lives. And that, in simple words, is what all this wrangling about wording in Raleigh has been about this past month.

Catch your breath and get ready for another riff: In June, on the last day of the General Assembly’s short session, lawmakers passed, without input from any delegate who isn’t designated with an “R,” those six amendments they want you to consider, giving legislators control of appointments for the judiciary and for commissions that the governor now has; enacting a photo ID framework for voters; lowering the cap of the state income tax rate; protecting the rights of crime victims and a reinforcement of your right to hunt and fish.

But in late July legislators realized that the three-person commission responsible for writing the language you would see on the ballot was controlled by two elected Democrats. So they did what they typically do: called a special session, changed that law and wrote descriptions themselves. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed that change, forcing another special session to override his veto.

Cooper and two other groups then successfully sued to remove the two amendments that took away the governor’s powers. So, rather than appeal that ruling to the state Supreme Court, the legislature was back Friday and Monday to write new amendments and apparently bypass the court ruling by making substantive changes to that wording, including restoring some control to Cooper.

We say “apparently” because there have been three special sessions and two court hearings in less than 60 days. Never mind that all five living former governors and six former chief justices think these amendments are bad ideas. Never mind that state Republican Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse actually suggested any justices who ruled against legislators perhaps should be impeached. That was the tactic in West Virginia, of all role models.

OK, sing this chorus with us: This is ridiculous to the sublime because none of these amendments rises to the level of constitutional protection and are only being used to verify future political power. None should be on your ballot, no matter how they are described, and they form an insultingly bad idea regardless of which party is in charge. They represent a power grab in four cases and bad government in five of them. That hunting and fishing amendment is a tip to the NRA. It has no other purpose.

Mail ballots are legally required to be in the sent by Sept. 7, and this thrust-and-parry has gone right to the hilt against the clock. At some point time will determine outcome over logic and principle.

So — and here is that word again — apparently you will have to make the value judgment to reject them. You will have to take the time to school yourself and your friends about what you actually are reading. These “ballot captions” are badly written in the extreme.

And you should vote against these six amendments and then perhaps vote against some of the people who are trying to manipulate you to pass them. The grab for power here is not in the best interest of anyone in North Carolina, no matter your party.

Greensboro News & Record

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Humans of Greenville

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Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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