Bills are starting to move in the North Carolina General Assembly.
At this point in the session, it always appears things are moving as slow as molasses, which is usually because they are. Then, toward the end, bills will be introduced, passed through committee and become law before anyone other than the leadership has had time to read them.
Bills that have the imprimatur of President Pro Tem of the Senate Phil Berger are usually a sure thing to get through the state Senate, but how well they fair in the state House is a matter of politics.
Both the North Carolina House and Senate hold bills hostage they know the other body really wants to get passed for negotiating in the final days. So if the leadership in the House knows the leadership in the Senate really wants a bill passed or vice versa, it might cause it to be pushed aside to use as leverage when needed.
One bill that if passed will affect Greensboro that has been introduced in the state Senate, and according to a press release has the support of Berger, deals with sanctuary cities and illegal immigrants.
Senate Bill 145, sponsored by Republican Sen. Norman Sanderson of Pamlico, places serious consequences on cities and universities that choose to ignore the immigration laws.
A press release from Berger’s office notes that city officials in Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Durham have made public statements about their unwillingness to follow the current immigration laws. Unfortunately for cities that want to be sanctuary type cities in North Carolina, if this bill passes the penalties are severe.
If a city is found to be violating the immigration policies, the state funding for city street maintenance (Powell Bill), beer and wine tax revenue, telecommunication taxes, sales tax on video programming, taxes on natural gas and scrap tire disposal would all be withheld. Those tax dollars could then be allocated to cities that comply with the law. Greensboro receives over $7.4 million a year in Powell Bill funding alone, so this is serious money under consideration in this bill.
The part of the bill that may affect Greensboro is that the bill prohibits the use of identification like the Faith Action Identification by law enforcement or municipalities. The Greensboro City Council and the Greensboro Police Department have been supportive of the Faith Action identification card program because they say that it helps build rapport with the community.
The state legislature is not very pleased with Greensboro right now because it doesn’t like getting sued. It would probably be a big mistake for Greensboro to push its luck if this bill passes.
Republican Rep. Jon Hardister of Greensboro is a co-sponsor on bill House Bill 200, which would set up a nonpartisan redistricting committee to draw congressional and legislative districts. Hardister has repeatedly said that he is in favor of nonpartisan redistricting because he said he thinks, “It’s the right thing to do.”
This bill has bipartisan support, but it seems really unlikely that the Republicans would give up the right to redistrict when they have only been in charge of redistricting once in the past 130 years.
As with all bills of this type, the devil is in the details. And this bill has some elements that seem to be contradictory. One is that the nonpartisan redistricting committee is not supposed to consider race or party in drawing the district lines, but the bill also states that it will comply with the Voting Rights Act, which at least in past interpretations has required that North Carolina draw majority-minority districts. So how do you draw a district based on race without considering race?
There is also the problem that, according to the North Carolina Constitution, the state legislature has to approve the new districts. The legislature is always partisan and it will makes the final decision, so regardless of what the nonpartisan committee decides, the highly partisan legislature has to approve the districts before they become law. It appears that the bill, if passed, might just be a feel good measure to make the redistricting appear to be nonpartisan when it will, in the end, be just as partisan as it ever was.
Maybe all that will get worked out in committee.