NC Senate Bill 817 quietly redefines term limits and elections.

The NCGA has been busy in that building– writing budgets that will pay the bills with money generated from lottery revenue,

 Sorry mortgage company, we can’t pay this month because of an unexpected shortage in lottery revenue.  Hopefully we can catch back up after powerball!

and passing new fracking laws. Hey, at least we won’t have a drilling accident like the Derweze (DARVAZA) Gas Crater in Turkmenistan– burning since 1971.  That’s comforting.

 Photo credit: Tormod Sandtorv CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo Credit: Tormod Sandtorv CC BY-SA 2.0

The rewriting of common core standards. Sigh. 

Another bill, one without much attention at all.  One that, given the future implications, might be worse than all of the rest.

May I introduce Senate Bill 817, a proposed constitutional amendment that would create 4-Year Terms for GA/Limit Consecutive Terms?

Bill 817 comes to us from the offices of Senators Daniel, Tarte, Rabin (Primary Sponsors); Hunt and Sanderson (all republican) and proposes another amendment to the state constitution.  This amendment will change term limits from 3 years to 4 years.

AN ACT AMENDING THE NORTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE FOUR-YEAR TERMS FOR MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND TO LIMIT MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO FOUR CONSECUTIVE TERMS IN A HOUSE.

I glanced at this one on May 21, but skipped reading it in favor of the proposed bill to rewrite educational standards and the regulatory reform act.

I came back to it though, and started to feel a little sorry for the Bill.  Here’s a proposed amendment to the state constitution and it’s getting almost no attention at all!

What does it say about the confidence I don’t have in my elected officials that my second response was one of narrow-eyed suspicion?

Why be suspicious of the new term limits?

And speaking of elections, in addition to extended term limits, they also (necessarily) change the election cycles from 2 to 4 years, aligned with national (read, presidential) elections.

“The Senate shall be composed of 50 Senators, biennially quadrennially chosen by ballot.”

 

“The House of Representatives shall be composed of 120 Representatives, biennially quadrennially chosen by ballot.”

 

“Sec. 8. Elections

The election for members of the General Assembly shall be held for the respective districts in 1972 2016 and every two four years thereafter, at the places and on the day prescribed by law.”

 

“The amendments made by Part I of this act become effective with the members elected in 2016. The amendment made by Part II of this act becomes effective January 1, 2017.”

 

What about those winning reelection campaigns in 2016?  They’ll already get an extra 2 years, but are they then eligible for the extra 4th term?

Take a minute– feel your stomach doing that thing?  Yeah, me too.  Part of me sees the benefit of 4-year election cycles– it certainly gives them more time to “get stuff done”.   Of course, that’s also why I’m terrified.

Then there are the governor appointees for vacancies from “death, resignation, or other cause.”  

Here’s how I read this proposed amendment with regard to filling vacancies:
I elect my democratic representative in 2016 and, in February 2017, he/she trips and falls into the path of an oncoming Amtrak train carrying freight cars filled with fracking chemicals.

At best, this amendment will see a republican governor appointing a (likely not democratic) replacement. At worst, my appointed representative could look like Governor McCrory’s recent appointment of Charlton Allen.

Now, switch every instance of democrat for republican in the above example and imagine the implications to your own political ideology.

A democratic governor could appoint someone like… me.  I promise my time in office would be well spent.  I would work really hard on medicaid expansion, common sense gun laws, environmental protections, and increasing revenue from sources other than powerball.

We have elections and term limits for a reason, and while the idea seems like a good one on the surface, I am wary of the nuanced, unclear wording in many sections. Think about that when (if) this shows up on the 2014 ballot.

[ ] FOR [ ] AGAINST
Constitutional amendments making the term of members of the General Assembly four years beginning with members elected in 2016, limiting members to four consecutive terms in the Senate or House of Representatives, and making conforming amendments concerning the election of other officers and the filling of vacancies.