House Passes Bill to Merge Boards, Despite Democrats' Objections | Eastern North Carolina Now | Over Democrats’ objections, on Thursday the Republican-controlled House passed Senate Bill 68, merging the state’s ethics and elections boards, along with some lobbying regulations

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    Publisher's note: The author of this post is Dan Way, who is an associate editor for the Carolina Journal, John Hood Publisher.

    Over Democrats' objections, on Thursday the Republican-controlled House passed Senate Bill 68, merging the state's ethics and elections boards, along with some lobbying regulations.

    The bill passed on a 68-42 party-line vote, with the exception of Rep. William Brisson, D-Bladen, the only Democrat who voted with Republicans. The bill now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, meaning it can only receive an up-or-down vote with no amendments.

    Much of the Democrats' opposition to the bill was based on the lack of a mechanism for the governor to include unaffiliated or independent voters on the new eight-member Elections Board, which would have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

The State Board of Elections, pictured at a November 2016 hearing. If Senate Bill 68 becomes law, the board would be merged with the state Ethics Commission into a separate body with new members. (CJ file photo)

    Unaffiliated voters nearly outnumber registered Republicans in the state. As of April 1, the State Board of Elections reported 2.639 million registered Democrats, 2.046 million registered Republicans, and 2.016 million unaffiliated voters.

    House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said unaffiliated voters would be excluded from the election oversight process. But House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, got Jackson to admit during floor debate that unaffiliated voters have no role under the current system Democrats hope to preserve.

    The measure was introduced to respond to a March Superior Court ruling striking down a similar law passed during December special session. The three-judge panel said Senate Bill 4 violated the constitutional separation-of-powers principle.

    As Carolina Journal reported earlier, it's unclear if S.B. 68 would satisfy those objections. Lewis and other Republicans insisted it would. Gov. Roy Cooper has vowed to veto the measure if it reaches his desk and to file a lawsuit to overturn it if his veto is overridden.
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