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Five former NC governors campaigning against constitutional amendments

August 10th, 2018

— All five of North Carolina’s living former governors will gather Monday to campaign against a pair of proposed constitutional amendments that would shift power from the governor to the legislature.

Former Gov. Jim Martin, the only North Carolina Republican to serve two terms in the office, is organizing the event. The group will gather for a press conference in the old House chambers at the State Capitol Building, then huddle for a private strategy session, Martin said Friday.

Former Govs. Pat McCrory, Bev Perdue, Mike Easley and Jim Hunt will join Martin at the event. Current Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has sued to keep the two targeted amendments off the ballot this November, uniting the current and former governors on the matter. Martin and McCrory are Republicans, the rest are Democrats.

Martin said this may be the first time all five former governors have appeared together. All five were already on record, though, against the two amendments.

One amendment would shift much of the power to fill judicial vacancies from the governor, who has wide latitude now to pick judges. Instead, if voters approve the proposed amendment, the legislature would pick two finalists for each open seat on the bench, and the governor would have to pick one of those two.

The other amendment sets up a new bipartisan state board of elections appointed by the General Assembly, and it also asserts that the legislature has the power to appoint members to hundreds of boards and commissions currently handled by the executive branch.

“That’s a very serious issue, and we want to be heard on it,” Martin said of the potential power shifts.

Republican leadership in the General Assembly has repeatedly noted that North Carolina has always vested most of the government’s power in the state legislature, and they describe the boards and commissions amendment as a clarifying one. Cooper’s lawsuit and a separate suit targeting these amendments argues that the ballot language voters are slated to see in November is misleading on this point and on others.

A spokesman for House Speaker Tim Moore said voters deserve a chance to vote on a new way to fill judicial vacancies, and GOP leaders have promised a more transparent process than the behind-closed-doors way governors have filled these jobs. A commission would be set up under the proposal to vet candidates, though decisions would be left up to the legislature.

“These governors enjoyed unfettered discretion to make judicial vacancy appointments for decades, so it’s no surprise they oppose returning this power to the people with a democratic process,” Moore spokesman Joseph Kyzer said in an email.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s new spokesman, Pat Ryan, went after some of the former governors in his statement.

“Given the ethics scandals coming from some of these administrations, it’s not shocking they’re rallying against a bipartisan ethics board,” Ryan said in an email. “We trust the voters to decide how best to protect the integrity of the political process.”

The amendments in question do significantly more than replace the current bipartisan ethics board with a new one.

This battle is one of several in recent years over the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. Martin and Hunt similarly sided with McCrory in a lawsuit he filed against the General Assembly over appointments to a state board overseeing the cleanup of coal ash pits across the state.

Article source: https://www.wral.com/five-former-nc-governors-campaigning-against-constitutional-amendments/17760300/

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