Politics & Government

Ex-GOP Gov. Jim Martin: Revisions to one contested amendment good; the other, not so much

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North Carolina constitutional amendments

Coverage from The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun of the constitutional amendments you’ll vote on in the November 2018 elections.

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Former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin, who led four other governors in opposing a pair of proposed constitutional amendments, Friday endorsed one of them after the N.C. House redrew it.

But the former Republican governor said he continued to have reservations about the other.

Lawmakers convened a special session Friday to address concerns over the two amendments, both of which would reduce the governor’s appointment powers.

House lawmakers rewrote the ballot language on both amendments to comply with a court order. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had sued over the language, calling it misleading. A three-judge panel agreed.

One of them, which would have stripped governors of their power to appoint members to hundreds of boards and commissions, was whittled down to include changes only to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

“It’s certainly a big improvement and I’m inclined to give them credit for that,” Martin said. “I applaud that change . . . On the other one, I still think that’s a big mistake.”

The second proposed amendment would take away governors’ powers to appoint judges and justices to vacant seats, and give more power to the Legislature. That one remains largely unchanged. But lawmakers added a clause that would make it clear that the Legislature cannot avoid a governor’s veto by attaching unrelated legislation to a bill on judicial appointments.

Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory said he’s still reviewing the changes but his initial reaction is “positive.”

Earlier Friday, Martin and McCrory called on lawmakers to remove both proposed amendments from the fall ballot.

Martin and McCrory, together with three other former governors and the six living chief justices from both parties, had said both amendments as originally written would essentially eliminate the separation of powers called for in the constitution.

“They have raised concerns among many of our fellow Republicans,” the two former GOP governors wrote. “Removing them removes a major distraction as voters consider other proposed amendments, and will be seen by many as the proper, statesmanlike course for you.”

The governors and other critics did not mention the other four proposed amendments, including one that would cap the state income tax and one that would require a voter ID.

The Senate is expected to take up the House bills on Monday.

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Jim Morrill, 704-358-5059; @jimmorrill

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