The last two weeks have been very eventful, both in the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh and in the coastal parts of our state. After Hurricane Dorian ran up the coast the first week of the month, the legislature created a storm last week by the House overriding the Governor’s veto of the state budget and meeting a court-ordered deadline for drawing new districts.
Two weeks ago a three judge panel appointed by the N.C. Chief Justice ruled that the legislative districts drawn in 2011 and partially revised in 2017 were politically gerrymandered, and should be redrawn. In a 357 page decision their experts went through 14 county groupings and said the legislature must redraw them in two weeks, a process that normally takes months. This is unprecedented, due to the fact that political considerations have never before been ruled illegal.
After Hurricane Dorian delayed the start of the process, our House and Senate Redistricting Committees went to work. Speaking for the House side, the meetings, which were required to be public, had court reporters, live streaming, and full public notice of the live meetings in our largest committee rooms. Although our meetings were held by the House Redistricting Committee, almost the entire House membership attended, so that their impacted districts could be reviewed with full participation of members of both parties.
I observed much of the proceeding, but was a participant in the review of the Brunswick-New Hanover county grouping. The districts had been changed by the court experts, so we were able to make no adjustments, except for incumbency. In our case, no changes were made. Many other county groupings had incumbents that were doubled or tripled up in districts, and had to tweak the precincts to correct it. This was particularly difficult in the Mecklenburg county map, where there are 12 House members. After three days of long and intense meetings and bipartisan agreement, the House voted Friday and passed the maps. The final vote, however, was mostly along party lines, in spite of the open, bipartisan process. They now go to the Senate for approval and back to the court for their blessing. So our local districts in Brunswick and New Hanover have been changed by the courts. I cannot stress enough that this not final until the court gives their approval.
Other startling news came out of Raleigh on Wednesday, when the House was able to override the Governor’s veto of the state budget, House Bill 966. As the Speaker had promised, the bill remained on the daily calendar and when the votes were there, we would take the vote. Everything was done according to law and House rules and protocol, and the vote was taken. The three-fifths majority for override was reached and the bill now is in the Senate for their override vote.
Contrary to all the misinformation and false information that has been put out by the Washington Post and other media, there was no 9/11 service going on that the opposition was attending. There was no additional notice to our party, other than the daily reminder from House Republican leadership to be in our seats on time. There was no notice that there would be no votes, which notice goes out from the Speaker by email, or from the podium, and usually both. All allegations to the contrary by media or opposition activists are false.
After an interesting and sometimes stressful last week, this week should see the districts approved by the Senate, while we in the House approve their districts. Hopefully, other business will be wrapping up so the long session can end, although a couple of months late.