Amendment “Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections”
Ballot Language: Constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections.
- This creates an even numbered board that will deadlock.
- It transfers appointments for roughly 400 state boards from the governor to the the NC General Assembly.
- The amendment fundamentally alters the balance of power that North Carolina’s constitution has historically maintained, removing important constitutional checks and balances.
- All living NC governors and all living state Supreme Court Justices oppose this amendment.
Voters will be asked to vote on six amendments to the North Carolina Constitution in November. They are all unnecessary, unprecedented, and politically motivated. We need to nix all six. It’s unclear who will write the final ballot language, but the current language is “Constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority.”
This amendment originated as House Bill 913 and fundamentally changes the balance of power between the governor and the state legislature. It’s also a cynical power grab. In an effort to strip the governor of power to appoint people to state boards and commissions, the amendment, if passed, would shift that authority to the General Assembly. Once it’s written into the NC Constitution, it will be difficult to undo.
The amendment would establish a “bipartisan” Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to “clarify” the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority.
Currently, the legislature has the power to nominate members to the North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, and the governor makes the appointments. According to House Bill 913, the Board of Ethics and Elections would be made up of eight members, each serving a four year term. The members would be nominated by the leaders of the NC House and NC Senate and would be appointed by the General Assembly. No more than four members could come from the same political party—that’s the “bipartisan” part—but the governor would no longer have the authority to appoint them. A Board consisting of four Republicans and four Democrats also risks a deadlock on every decision. This “bipartisan” Board, it turns out, would be highly partisan.
The role of the Board in “clarifying” the appointment authority of the legislative and the judicial branches is even more troubling. The bill that is the source of this amendment claims that the legislative, executive, and “supreme judicial” branches of state government should remain separate and distinct. Yet in the next breath, it states that the legislative branch “shall control the powers, duties, responsibilities, appointments, and terms of office of any board or commission prescribed by general law.” In other words, the legislature would have power over roughly 400 state boards and commissions, and the governor would be stripped of the power to appoint people to these agencies. In effect, the legislature would have exclusive control over how you can vote, which roads and bridges are built or repaired, the cost of your energy bill, and the quality of your drinking water, among other services.
Our Attorney General, Josh Stein, has called this amendment “the most radical restructuring of our government in more than 100 years, since the Civil War. It would essentially give the legislature the power to run the executive branch.” The role of the governor would become largely ceremonial.
The Charlotte Observer editorial board has called this move a blatant power grab: “A fundamental way the governor and the legislature have kept each other in check is by having the General Assembly make the laws and the governor appointing members of executive-branch boards and commissions and influencing their work. Besides the elections board, the governor’s appointment power to panels such as the Utilities Commission, the Board of Transportation, the Environmental Management Commission and scores of others has provided an important check on the legislature’s power.”
Voters need to reject this amendment to maintain the checks and balances necessary for effective state government. Vote against the amendment to “Clarify Board Appointments”!