Last Monday the NCGA passed a bill targeting the misuse of local office for financial gain. The bill would make such misuse a felony and would require local governments to recover funds lost through such misuse by garnishing the official’s wages. Lawmakers drafted the bill following an audit of the city of Rocky Mount.
On Friday a three-judge Superior Court panel denied requests to delay candidate filing for state legislative and congressional district races. In the first of three court cases seeking to stop newly drawn maps from taking effect, the NAACP and other groups sought to delay North Carolina’s primaries from March to May (and likewise delay candidate filing), arguing the maps represent an unconstitutional gerrymander. Filing is set to begin Monday for the new districts, which heavily favor Republicans. Groups challenging the maps are likely to appeal. FLASH UPDATE: “Court ruling stops 2022 candidate filing in disputed NC districts”
On Thursday Governor Cooper vetoed a bill that would prohibit the counting of absentee ballots received after polls close on Election Day. SB 326, a Republican-supported bill, would have stopped the receipt of absentee ballots at 7:30 PM on Election Day, which could have led to thousands of valid votes being discarded. North Carolina has allowed a 3-day grace period for receipt of mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day since 2009.
Last Monday the NCGA passed a bill that would prohibit the use of private donations to cover elections costs. SB 725 passed along party lines, with Democrats objecting that the bill is a way for Republicans to cast doubt on elections. In the 2020 election cycle, private donations supplemented limited state elections funding to allow for the purchase of sufficient basic supplies like pens and for improved COVID safety measures.
On Tuesday an NC Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 that Superior Court Judge David Lee did not have the authority to require that the state spend $1.7 billion to fully fund the Leandro school improvement plan. The judges’ decision described Lee’s order as “constitutionally impermissible and beyond the power of the trial court.” Because the recent state budget did not fully fund the Leandro plan, it is unclear how the plan will be fully funded given this decision.
Last Monday the NCGA passed a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning energy sources such as natural gas in new construction. HB 220 is one of many similar bills across the country that have been pushed by the American Gas Association, a natural gas lobbying group. Environmental advocates urged Governor Cooper to veto the bill.
The new state budget includes a provision that would bar public access to records of law enforcement “critical incidents,” i.e., when police injure or kill someone. A bill passed earlier this year mandated the creation of a database tracking such incidents, but the budget provision will prohibit that database from being accessible to the public. Records of revocations and suspensions of officer certification will be public.