Controversial measures may have to wait, but some are worthy of careful consideration now
Christian Action League
Members of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) traveled from Manteo to Murphy this week to reconvene on Wednesday in Raleigh for the 2010 “Short Session.” The session, which is expected to focus primarily on budget matters, will also likely include a host of proposed changes that would be of interest to conservative evangelical Christians.
Senator David Hoyle (D-Gaston) told the press this week, “The attitude…is we’re going to get the budget, we’re going to pass it and we’re going to get out of town…Anything that’s controversial, it’ll have to wait until 2011.”
The more controversial measures may indeed have to wait. Nevertheless, early and straight out of the shoot in the first two days of the new session there are a number of controversial bills introduced that are worthy of the NCGA’s careful consideration. Some bills yet to have numbers.
Defense of Marriage: Senators Jim Forrester (R-Gaston) and Jim Jacumin (R-Burke) have introduced a bill (SB 1156 – Defense of Marriage) that would amend North Carolina’s Constitution to clarify the definition of marriage as one man and one woman.
A Constitutional amendment would provide the best protection available for marriage. Although legislation to this end has been introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly for six years straight, the leadership in both chambers has shuffled it off to committees where it’s never been allowed a hearing.
Forrester told the Christian Action League on Thursday that North Carolinians are being denied their right to vote on this critical issue. He said 30 states have marriage protection amendments in their Constitutions and North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without such an amendment. Yet the polls say that 70 percent of North Carolina’s citizens would support it.
Forrester added the votes to pass the measure already exist in both chambers.
Eminent Domain: House Minority Leader, Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) and Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) have also introduced a measure (HB 1659 – Eminent Domain) that would amend North Carolina’s Constitution to protect citizens’ property rights. “Eminent Domain,” says Stam, “stops abusive condemnations in situations where any fair minded person would say that the government should not be able to take that land, it doesn’t stop all condemnations or public uses, but it stops it where it’s taking one person’s land to make another person richer.” Stam says the measure has been stopped at different stages in different years.
“The eighth commandment, which is “Thou shalt not steal,” provides a fundamental right to private property that should be vigorously protected,” said Rev. Creech. “That’s why we ought to monitor and support this legislation,” he added.
Protecting the Freedom to Choose Healthcare: In response to the Healthcare bill recently passed in the United States Congress, Reps. Stam (R-Wake), Thom Tillis (R- Mecklenburg), Jeff Barnhart (R-Cabarrus) and Pearl Burris-Floyd (R-Cleveland), have introduced a measure (HJR 1674 – Authorizing Resolution/Protect Health Care Freedom) that would authorize the North Carolina General Assembly to protect the freedom of North Carolinians to choose their own healthcare and health insurance.
Rep. Tillis says the bill is meant to assert North Carolinians 10th Amendment rights. “We’re trying to come up with a way to prevent the federal government from coming into the state of North Carolina and mandating that you buy something – purely on the basis that you are alive. You know, people say, ‘Well, we mandate that you buy car insurance.’ No we don’t. We require you to buy car insurance if you want to drive a car. There’s no precursor to some sort of privilege here unless you consider living a privilege. We actually consider it a right. So this is just an attempt, in part, to bolster the lawsuits that some of the other states have been courageous enough to take, saying that we think it’s unconstitutional what you’re doing. But then, create our own firewall, that we could potentially prevail in the courts by saying that the federal government doesn’t have the right to apply this to the citizens of North Carolina.”
Sunday Bow Hunting: Unfortunately, last year the Wildlife Resources Commission ruled to allow Sunday bow hunting, after hunting of any kind was banned on The Lord’s Day for more than 140 years. Subsequent to this ruling, protest letters were received by the Commission which required the matter be forwarded to the North Carolina General Assembly for a decision. If the Legislature fails to act within 30 days of the starting of the short session to introduce legislation to repeal the ruling, then the ruling will stand.
This is why Rep. Cullie Tarleton (D-Watauga) introduced legislation (HB 1696 – Wataugua/Sunday Bow Hunting Exemption) this week that would allow Watauga County to have a referendum to opt out of Sunday bow hunting. Tarleton says he put forward his local bill after Watauga County Commissioners had public hearings on the Commission’s ruling and requested he introduce the measure.
Although no bill has been introduced to repeal the Commission’s ruling statewide, the Christian Action League has it on good authority that such legislation is likely very soon.
Modernization of the State ABC System: Sen. Don Vaughn (D-Guilford) introduced the same bill recommended by the Joint Legislative Study Commission on ABC (SB 1112 – Modernization of the State ABC System).
The proposal would give the state ABC Commission more authority to set standards for efficiency, store appearance and customer service and would require a new level of budget reporting and financial transparency for local ABC boards. However, it would not make those boards subject to the state ethics requirements, improve funding for Alcohol Law Enforcement, or raise the voter threshold from 500 registered voters to 5000 for an ABC election.
The good news about this legislation is that it does not recommend the privatization of liquor sales, nor does it recommend “agency stores,” which are a form of partial privatization.
For a more detailed report on this legislation read the Christian Action League’s previous report: Joint Legislative Study Committee on ABC Completes Work and Puts Forward a Bill
The Christian Action League is still conducting a full analysis of this bill.
Video Sweepstakes Gambling: Video poker, which was banned by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2006 has now been supplanted by “sweepstakes” gaming that mimics it in every way but is — at least for now — technically – not in violation of the ban, nor the broader law against server-based gaming approved two years later.
However, Rep. Ray Rapp (D-Haywood) and Rep. Melanie Goodwin (D-Richmond) hope to change that this session with what Rapp describes as a “comprehensive piece of legislation with broad-based bipartisan support” to ban video gambling and make a clear public policy statement against all of the forms the game may take.
The bill has not been filed yet. To read a more comprehensive report on this legislation see: Video Sweepstakes: Two House Members to Introduce Legislation for a Ban
Other Matters of Interest
Racial Justice Act: Rep. Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and some other fellow Republicans held a press conference on Thursday to express concerns that the Racial Justice Act, approved by the General Assembly last year, is being abused.
The Racial Justice Act allows death-penalty defendants to claim that certain statistical data indicates that racial bias is likely to tip the scales of justice against them. But certain cases across the state show the new law is being used as a stalling tactic by defense attorneys, regardless of the accused person’s race.
Tillis says the law as it stands “delays justice and protracts the grieving and suffering” of the victim’s family members. He wants the law to be amended so it may be used only as a basis for appeal after a death sentence has been handed down.
Medical Marijuana: “Don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet,” says Rev. Creech. “Rep. Earl Jones (D-Guilford) might be a lame duck because he wasn’t re-elected in the primary, but the medical marijuana proponents are not giving up. They were present and in force on Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously, they intend to push hard to make medical marijuana legal in North Carolina.”
Be sure to watch all the correspondence of the Christian Action League carefully for the next few weeks. The Legislature is back and they have hit the ground running.