Proposals would affect hunting, crime victims, taxes, judges, elections and ethics – From the Asheville Citizen Times

Mark Barrett, Asheville Citizen Times   PublishedVote 12:00 p.m. ET Oct. 14, 2018 | Updated 10:20 a.m. ET Oct. 15, 2018    This is copied from the AC-T.  Read the full article here.

Hunting and fishing

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.”

Background: The amendment would prohibit restrictions on hunting and fishing except for laws or rules to “promote wildlife conservation and management … and preserve the future of hunting and fishing,” according to the text of the amendment.

Supporters say: The percentage of the United States population that hunts or fishes has declined and both practices have received more criticism in recent years. Proponents say the amendment would keep anti-hunting or anti-fishing sentiment from resulting in unreasonable laws restricting the practices in the future.

Opponents say: There have been few, if any, legislative threats to either practice and the amendment is unnecessary. They say the state Constitution should speak to more fundamental topics, not details the General Assembly can handle, and the amendment is just an attempt to increase Republican turnout.


Crime victims’ rights

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.”

Background: The state Constitution already gives victims of serious crimes rights, including the right to be informed of and be present at court proceedings, to be heard at sentencing of the accused, to receive restitution, to confer with the prosecutor and for information about the outcome of a case or the escape or release of an offender.

The amendment would expand those rights to apply to all crimes against the victim personally and all felony property crimes and would include crimes committed by juveniles. It would also clarify existing law in some cases to say the justice system must make reasonable efforts to uphold victims’ rights and that the legislature must provide a procedure whereby victims may assert their rights. Victims would still not have the ability to challenge verdicts or sentences of those convicted.

Supporters say: Some prosecutors do a good job of informing victims of the progress or a case and some do not. They say the changes will improve the chances that victims will be told of hearings or a prisoner’s status after conviction. They also note that, unlike the other amendments on the ballot, this amendment was placed on the ballot with support from wide majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature.

Opponents say: The law would slow down court proceedings and make them more expensive and victims’ rights already listed in the Constitution are sufficient. One state agency estimated the annual cost of implementation at $30.5 million a year. Legislative staffers said it would be $11.2 million a year but there are some indirect costs it could not estimate. There are also concerns that it is not known how the legislature would implement the law.


Income tax cap

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).”

Background: The personal income tax rate is currently 5.499 percent, so passage of the referendum would not lower anyone’s taxes today. It would prevent the state from making the tax rate higher than 7 percent. The limit now in the Constitution is 10 percent.

Supporters say: State government has been able to operate well with a lower rate and lowering the cap on the rate would keep the General Assembly from overtaxing in the future.

Opponents say: The cap would increase the chances the state will continue to under-fund education and give it less flexibility to fund state government in times of disaster or recession.


Judicial vacancies

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment to change the process for filling judicial vacancies from a process in which the Governor has sole appointment power …”

Background: When a judge’s job becomes vacant today, the governor has the sole power to appoint someone to serve out the judge’s unexpired term in office. The amendment calls instead for the governor, legislature and chief justice of the state Supreme Court to appoint a commission to evaluate nominees without considering party affiliation. Then the legislature would recommend at least two of the nominees to the governor, who would have to pick one of the nominees to serve out the term or let the legislature choose one. In some cases, the chief justice would pick a temporary judge.

Supporters say: Governors have too few restraints on their ability to pick judges and sometimes have put political cronies on the bench. They say the change would reduce political considerations in choosing judges and improve the quality of the judiciary.

Opponents say: The measure is yet another step to transfer power from the governor  to the legislature. They say the process would still be political and would require candidates to lobby legislators whose laws they would have to one day rule on.


Elections board changes

What the ballot says: “Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law.”

Background: Today, each major political party nominates six members to the board that runs elections and handles ethics issues involving state officials. The governor chooses four members from the six nominees. The eight people chosen nominate two unaffiliated voters and the governor picks one to serve on the nine-member board.

The amendment would have the General Assembly choose eight members, four from each political party.

Supporters say: The governor has too much power over the electoral process and dividing the board’s membership equally between the parties would require the board to come up with bipartisan decisions.

Opponents say: The change is another power grab by the legislature, would leave the board hopelessly deadlocked and cuts out unaffiliated voters. The result, they say, would be weaker enforcement of election and ethics law.


Look for more coverage of the proposed constitutional amendments in future editions of the Citizen Times and at CITIZEN-TIMES.com.