Hastily crafted “sunshine amendment” delayed till next week

Hastily crafted “sunshine amendment” delayed till next week

- in Legislative Watch

One of the hallmarks of the 2011 legislative session thus far has been affinity displayed by the new Republican majorities for amending the North Carolina Constitution.  In a state in which such amendments have been extremely infrequent through the years, lawmakers have been floating a raft of bills to do just that on a dizzying array of topics. 

Today, members of the House debated one such amendment – House Bill 87, a proposal that would add a very lengthy amendment to the state Constitution on access to public records and public meetings.

Though all representatives who spoke voiced support for the basic objective of the proposed legislation, several Democratic lawmakers objected to the bill on the grounds that Section 3 — which specifies a complex process under which lawmakers can waive the commands of the amendment by a three-fifths vote — does not really belong in a constitutional amendment. Lawmakers also questioned Section 4 which purports to say that the amendment would not impact laws passed before January of 2013.

In short, said the critics, the legislature ought not to rush through a constitutional amendment that really sounds and looks more like common legislation — especially since the title of the proposal (“Sunshine Amendment”) all but guarantees that voters will pass it by an overwhelming margin. (It’s worth noting that constitutional amendments are also not subject to gubernatorial review.)

To this end, Rep, Bill Faison offered an amendment that would have converted the matter into a normal statutory change, rather than  a constitutional amendment. 

After a good deal of debate on the amendment, the matter was carried over until next Tuesday without a vote. It will be interesting to see if Deomcrats are able to convince and Republicans to entertain breaking with their locktsep voting pattern on this matter in the interim.

About the author

Rob Schofield, Director of NC Policy Watch, has three decades of experience as a lawyer, lobbyist, writer and commentator. At Policy Watch, Rob writes and edits daily online commentaries and handles numerous public speaking and electronic media appearances. He also delivers a radio commentary that’s broadcast weekdays on WRAL-FM and WCHL and hosts News and Views, a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.