North Carolina state lawmakers have filed a motion to stay a ruling made this past week that invalidates two constitutional amendments passed by voters in 2018.
The motion, filed by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), calls into question the logic of the ruling, its impact on elections, election law, voting districts, and past laws such as budgets.
“The precedent created by this decision casts doubt on even more laws and causes public confusion,” the motion says.
Last Friday, Superior Court Judge George Bryan Collins, Jr. ruled that two out of four state constitutional amendments passed by North Carolina voters in 2018 were illegal because the State Legislature was itself “illegal.”
“An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” Collins wrote in his ruling.
A press release by the office of Senator Phil Berger blasted Collin’s ruling.
The press release states that Collins’s decision “tosses aside the will of more than two million voters” who cast a ballot for the voter ID amendment. The statement says the same disenfranchisement applies to those who cast a ballot to pass a maximum tax rate amendment.
Going a step further, the press release also said that Collins “inaccurately described the income tax amendment in stark political terms.”
The full text of the press release by Senator Berger is below:
Legislature Seeks Stay of Democratic Judge’s Decision to Rule Republican Legislature Unconstitutional
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina General Assembly leaders today filed a motion to stay Democratic Wake County Judge Bryan Collins’s decision that determined the Republican-led legislature was unconstitutional for at least 18 months. Per North Carolina law, Judge Collins will hear the motion first.
Judge Collins’s decision tosses aside the will of more than two million voters who cast a ballot in support of a constitutional amendment requiring photo identification when voting. An African American Democrat was a primary sponsor of the legislation implementing the voter ID amendment. Legislative Democrats praised Republicans for accepting dozens of their suggestions in crafting the voter ID implementing legislation.
Judge Collins’s decision also invalidates the will of more than two million voters who cast a ballot in support of decreasing the maximum allowable income tax rate from ten percent to seven percent.
In his decision, Judge Collins inaccurately described the income tax amendment in stark political terms: “Because the amendment places a flat, artificial limit on income taxes, it prohibits the state from establishing graduated tax rates on higher-income taxpayers and, over time, will act as a tax cut only for the wealthy. This tends to favor white households and disadvantage people of color…”
The income tax amendment does not require a flat tax, does not prohibit the state from establishing graduated tax rates, and is not a tax cut for the wealthy. In fact, the amendment changes nothing about the tax structure that has existed in North Carolina for several years.
The Republican-enacted tax cuts that began in 2013 resulted in 99 percent of North Carolina taxpayers paying less or nothing at all in income taxes. The largest decrease in effective tax rates that resulted from the Republican-led tax cuts went to families earning less than $50,000 per year. Under Republican fiscal policies, more people work today in North Carolina than at any other time in state history. Additionally, the African American unemployment rate has dropped by more than half, from 19.1 percent in 2010 to 8.4 percent. It is the lowest rate since at least 2005, the last year for which Census data was readily available.
Lawmakers are not alone in protesting the ruling. Many media outlets in the state have also balked at it.
The motion notes that liberal outlet Independent Weekly has written that the ruling would seem to apply to the other two amendments if anyone were to challenge them.
Stacey Matthews at Legal Insurrection ran down several outlets scratching their heads over the ruling and included tweets from Democratic State Sen. Jeff Jackson that called the ruling “unworkable.”
“It’s a reach of legal logic, a ruling that appears more like progressive fist-pounding than something that should come from the bench,” the Charlotte Observer Editorial Board wrote about the ruling.
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A.P. Dillon is the North Carolina Bureau Chief for The Tennesee Star and a reporter at Battleground State News. Follow A.P. Dillon on Twitter. Email Tips to [email protected].
Photo “North Carolina Capitol” by Chanilim714. CC BY-SA 3.0.