Newsletter from the office of Representative Mary Belk.
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At the CATS Gateway Station grand opening with District 101 candidate Carolyn Logan, Rep. Beverly Earle & Rep. Chaz Beasley.

Surprise! Another Special Session

Even by the low standards the supermajority has been using to legislate these past two years, this past special session was a doozy. There were literally seventeen hours between the time the call to convene went out to the introduction of two new NC Constitutional Amendments, that had been hastily emailed to legislators the night before.

I suppose we shouldn’t have been all that shocked after the 2018 budget process that skipped democratic niceties like committee debates in favor of ‘member money’ deals for the well connected few. It’s just another chapter in the ‘heads, I win; tails, you lose’ politics of a supermajority that believes it is beyond the rebuke of the voters. 
What Happened?

The surprise session was called after a three judge panel of the NC Supreme Court declared that two of the six proposed constitutional amendments were unclear in the ballot language that would be presented to voters, and one undermined the separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches. You can read the judgement HERE.

HB913, which would have shifted appointment power of all Boards and Commissions from the Governor to the Legislature, in addition to creating a deadlocked Board of Ethics & Elections Enforcement, was ruled deceptively vague, and an unconstitutional breach of Separation of Powers. 

SB814, which sets up a nominal ‘merit selection’ system for judicial vacancies that will in effect give the legislative majority leaders the ability to choose any and all judges eligible for appointment by the Governor, was ruled to be deceptively vague in the language presented to voters.  

It’s worth noting here that the currently sitting members of the NC Supreme Court who ruled against the amendments aren’t the only people who weighed in on the issue. All five living former Governors and all six retired Chief Justices of the NC Supreme Court issued joint statements in opposition to both amendments. 
Here I am with Representatives Reives, Butler, and Autry waiting for one of our many 2018 'special sessions' to get underway.
What Did They Change?

Last Friday’s hastily convened special session saw two new versions of the unconstitutional amendments introduced and approved on party line votes in the House, with the Senate following on Monday of this week. The amendments were changed, and the ballot language updated, but they still do everything possible to entrench the GOP supermajority’s power. 

HB4 is the updated version of the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement amendment. They did drop the clause that completely stripped the Governor of his appointment power to Boards & Commissions, but I still vehemently disagree with the language that remains. If we create an evenly split, 8 person elections board, it will deadlock between Republicans and Democrats any time there is a contentious issue. We don’t need the NC Board of Elections to be as weak and feckless as the Federal Elections Commission.

HB3 is the ‘new’ version of the Legislative ‘Merit’ Selection Amendment that really changes nothing of substance, except the language put on the ballot. The underlying bill still creates a system where the majority leaders of the House & Senate get to choose the two nominees and the Governor must pick one of the two. Here’s the new ballot language:

[ ] FOR [ ] AGAINST 
Constitutional amendment to change the process for filling judicial vacancies that occur between judicial elections from a process in which the Governor has sole appointment power to a process in which the people of the State nominate individuals to fill vacancies by way of a commission comprised of appointees made by the judicial, executive, and legislative branches charged with making recommendations to the legislature as to which nominees are deemed qualified; then the legislature will recommend at least two nominees to the Governor via legislative action not subject to gubernatorial veto; and the Governor will appoint judges from among these nominees."

What’s Next?

As you might imagine, the Governor has promised to return to court to defend his right to appoint a deciding vote to the State Board of Elections (no matter what the Legislature would like to call it), and to appoint judges to fill vacancies until the next scheduled election for the vacated seat.

Just this afternoon, a 3 judge panel of the NC Supreme Court ruled the new language was sufficiently descriptive, so the two new versions we approved this week will most likely appear on the ballot in November (though the Governor will appeal to the full court). 

In a completely different case, the NC NAACP and a group of plaintiffs brought suit against four of the six original amendments. Just this past Wednesday, the State Supreme Court issued a stay that prevents the printing of 2018 ballots until they can hear the case against the 7% Income Tax Cap and the Voter ID Amendments. Once again, there is no ruling in this case, so these two may or may not appear on the ballot in November.

This is all to say that we’re honestly not sure about the shape of the 2018 Election. There are a number of lawsuits pending that will determine the ballot items, so stay tuned to my office Twitter account (@BelkRep) for breaking news and updates.
Judge James Wynn, during his confirmation hearing to become U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit in 2009. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Common Cause v. Rucho II:
Wynn’s Revenge

If you were following the national news this week, you might have heard that the 4th Circuit Federal Court handed down another decision in the Common Cause v. Rucho partisan gerrymandering court case. It was big news with good reason. 

If allowed to stand, the ruling could mean that North Carolina is going to get new federal Congressional Districts and Primaries in 2018. Given the nearly 50/50 partisan split of the NC electorate, that could mean a congressional delegation with 6 (or 7) Democrats instead of three and have huge implications for the control of the US House of Representatives in 2019!

As exciting as that all sounds (and frankly just, considering the multiple decisions against the GOP map makers), I’m afraid there’s a very good chance the US Supreme Court will stay the decision until after the election. Experts are pointing out that the current 4-4 split on the court might lead to a ‘split decision’ on a stay, allowing the lower court’s ruling to go into effect, but the court’s moderates on both sides do not like interfering with elections that are underway. This may lead them to stay the decision until Justice Kavanaugh is confirmed and the full court can hear the case. 

In any event, I strongly recommend that you read at least the first four or five pages of the decision by 4th Circuit Court Judge Wynn. In it, he lays out a compelling case that extreme partisan gerrymandering is prohibited by both the 1st Amendment’s right to freedom of association and speech, as well as the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. No matter the final outcome of the appeal, I believe our election lawyers will be following the path he has laid when they finally find the right case to end extreme partisan gerrymandering.

Your Business, Our Community

Having trouble with a business or have information about a scam?  Here is what you need to know to file a complaint with the NC Attorney General’s Office.

The AG’s Office also has a list of its Top Ten Consumer Tips:

1. Say no to high-pressure sales pitches. If the offer is only good today, walk away.

2. Always read contracts carefully before you sign them, and make sure all written documents match what you’ve been promised. Never sign a document that you don’t understand or that has blanks to be filled in later.

3. Be cautious when responding to telemarketers, door-to-door sellers, and email or text pitches. Instead of responding to unsolicited offers, decide when and where you want to go shopping.

4. You never have to make a purchase or pay taxes, fees or other expenses in advance to win a prize. Anyone who demands an upfront fee for a prize is trying to scam you.

5. Never give out your Social Security Number, credit card or bank account number or other personal information to anyone you don’t know who contacts you.

6. Be skeptical of upfront fees. North Carolina law makes it illegal to collect advance fees for some types of work, such as foreclosure assistance and debt settlement help. If an advance payment is required for other kinds of transactions, use a credit card when possible. This gives you some protection if your order doesn’t arrive or the work isn’t completed.

7. Do business with companies you know or that come recommended by those you trust. Check out companies with the Attorney General’s Office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or your local Better Business Bureau before making major purchases.

8. Join the Do Not Call registry to cut down on unwanted telemarketing calls.  To sign up, call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register or visit Once you’re on the list, report Do No Call violators to the Attorney General’s Office.

9. Check your credit report regularly. You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each nationwide credit bureau. To access your free credit reports, visit or call 1-877-322-8228.

10. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Domestic Violence Hotline: If you or someone you know is trapped in a domestic violence or partner abuse situation, please call Safe Alliance at 704-332-2513 and they can help you.

Mecklenburg Compost & Mulch are now available for purchase from the new Compost Central Recycling Disposal Center. Visit their web page for details and pricing.

Property Tax values and histories in Mecklenburg County can be searched on this site that includes links to Polaris and information about the reassessments that occurred in 2011. You can find more detailed information on real estate values on the Mecklenburg Modria site. 

Charlotte 311 is your connection to city services, including Animal Control, Street Maintenance, Bulky Trash Pick-up, Parking Enforcement, and all other non-police related matters. Dial 311 or visit their website to fill out a form and have your issue addressed as soon as possible.    

Voter Information: You can find your current information on the NC Voter Lookup page. You can also find interactive versions of the new House & Senate maps HERE.   
Don’t forget! Visit today to see if you have unclaimed property under the supervision of the NC Treasurer’s office.

My office is here to help you navigate any issues you may have with state services. Please call myself or my legislative assistant, Ralph Belk, at 919-733-5607 or email me at with any questions or concerns

In the News

North Carolina’s gerrymandered map is unconstitutional, judges rule, and may have to be redrawn before midterms
Washington Post
The North Carolina gerrymandering chaos that could upend the midterms, explained
Republicans say they're ending appeals in ballot cases
Associated Press
State Board of Elections Halts Ballot Preparation

Opinion: Meet the amendments that didn't make the cut
News & Record
Opinion: North Carolina's proposed constitutional amendments need to be defeated
News & Record
Our view: Reject the six amendments
Winston-Salem Journal
What Public School Finance Officers Want You To Know About School Funding
Could a memorial to African-Americans finally make its way onto the Capitol grounds?
The News & Observer
Legislature promises deep dive on Cooper admin's hurricane response, gas pipeline deal

It’s a rural NC county of 20,000 people. What will it be like when 400,000 visit?
Charlotte Observer
Our View: A hog-waste settlement in the works? Let’s hope
Fayetteville Observer
Hundreds attend Raleigh forum on constitutional amendments
Update: House passes new constitutional amendments language
Editorial: Past governors call out lawmakers on ‘scheme’
Salisbury Post
Former NC chief justices join former governors in opposing proposed amendments
Charlotte Observer
Court gives Roy Cooper a win on constitutional amendments, at least temporarily
The News & Observer
NC teachers say conditions are ‘unacceptable’ and demand lawmakers take action
The News & Observer
FEMA denies help for WNC after mudslides, floods; State to appeal
With money for classroom supplies coming out of teachers’ pockets, a local organization steps in to help
Winston-Salem Journal
Mecklenburg County NC House Districts Effective for the 2018 Election 
Copyright © 2018 Representative Mary Belk, All rights reserved.

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