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NCGA Weekly Roundup: Gerrymandering, protest bill dominate hectic week

Here's a look at what the state legislature did this week

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This is part of a series that looks at bills the state legislature has introduced, the progress they have made in the chamber and what impact they might have on the state moving forward. Read last week's roundup here.

Last week, a member of the N.C. Senate accused Republican members in the legislature of planning to draw a congressional map that would intentionally favor them in future elections.

Other notable action in the chamber includes a bill to increase the criminal penalties for willfully engaging in a riot — which was introduced Monday — and several other bills.

Drawing the line 

N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) criticized redistricting efforts by Republicans in the General Assembly after a report claimed they would be drawing congressional boundaries with the aim of increasing the number of seats for Republicans in the U.S. House.

Jackson, who already announced he would be running for the state’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022, made the allegation on Twitter, citing a report that first appeared in the Carolina Journal on April 26. 

An archived version of the report, written by Dallas Woodhouse, former executive director of the N.C. GOP, makes a bold claim about Republican redistricting efforts. 

Carolina Journal has learned that GOP redistricting leaders will consider approving a new map designed to elect a (sic) 10 Republicans and four Democrats beginning in 2022,” the archived report read. 

This paragraph has since been removed from the story, and an edited version only refers to a 10-4 scenario as a possibility and not an intended outcome. The journal gave no explanation for the removal of the paragraph.

Jackson condemned the supposed plans to intentionally rig the congressional map, but said he wasn’t surprised by the effort.

“Given that there are currently 5 Dem seats — and that our state will be gaining a new congressional district — going down to 4 Dem seats could only be accomplished via *extreme* gerrymandering,” Jackson said in a Tweet.

He also called for federal action to end congressional gerrymandering, expressing his support for HR 1, a voting rights measure currently in the U.S. Senate. 

Anti-rioting bill

On Monday, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) introduced a bill to increase the criminal penalty for rioting and causing damage to people or property while protesting.

House Bill 805 stipulates that any individual who willfully engages in a riot where there has been property damage of over $1,500 or serious bodily injury would be guilty of a Class F felony, which carries a penalty of 10 to 41 months in prison. 

If someone is found guilty of inciting such a riot, the charge is raised to a Class E felony, where the penalty is 15 to 63 months in prison. If there is a death in the riot, the punishment is also a Class E felony. 

“Riots and looting devastated many North Carolina downtowns last year at a time when many small businesses were already struggling,” Moore said in a statement.

He said the legislation was meant to deter future riots and increase the penalties on those engaging in “anti-social anarchy.” 

This legislation comes in the midst of demonstrations in Elizabeth City over the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old Black man who was shot outside his home there on April 21. His family attorneys say he was unarmed, prompting calls for justice from protesters.  

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In Moore’s response to the governor’s State of the State address, he said criminal justice reform and pursuing harsher penalties on rioters were not conflicting goals.

“It’s not an either-or question,” Moore said. “We can pass legislation to crack down on rioters and looters, and those who hurt law enforcement officers, while also ensuring police are trained to prevent abuse and that the few officers who have abused their authority are held responsible.”

Also on the docket

The General Assembly also saw a few more notable bills introduced and debated in the chamber over the course of the past week, including:

  • House Joint Resolution 330: a declaration from Republicans in both chambers condemning federal attempts to intervene in the state’s elections in response to HR 1. The measure passed in the House in a 67-50 vote along party lines on April 27. 
  • House Bill 719: a bill aiming to repeal the death penalty. The bill, filed on April 28, has 14 sponsors, including N.C. Rep. Verla Insko (D-Orange), and is currently in committee. 
  • Senate Bill 35: a measure to institute a maximum age difference of 4 years for a person under 18 years of age to get married. The age difference requirement applies to all individuals that are between 14 and 18 years of age, as it remains illegal for those under 14 years old to marry. The bill, which was filed at the start of February, was re-referred to the state senate’s rules committee.

The legislature is expected to continue debating these bills and more, as it remains in session for the rest of the week. 


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