Citizens-only Voting, Photo ID And Income Tax Changes Could Become NC Amendments On 2024 Ballots | Old North State Wealth News
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Citizens-only voting, photo ID and income tax changes could become NC amendments on 2024 ballots



North Carolina General Assembly

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Senate is considering a slew of elections-related measures including three proposed constitutional amendments designed to give voters a say in the law-making process.

The bills — which passed a Senate elections committee on Thursday — deal with artificial intelligence in political advertisements, absentee ballot challenges and signature verification — as well as the three amendment proposals that could appear on ballots this fall.

“The opportunity before you today is to empower the people of North Carolina to amend their own state constitution,” Gaston County Republican Sen. Brad Overcash said in committee.

The proposed constitutional amendments would cover citizens-only voting, voter ID laws and income taxes. If the amendment projects are successfully enacted by the legislature, voters can cast their ballot for or against the referendums in November, making them law with a simple majority of votes.

To get a question on the ballot, it requires supermajorities — 72 House and 30 Senate members — to pass it. Referendums are not subject to Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto.

The first amendment — which also was proposed by House Republicans earlier this month — clarifies that only U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old and meet other qualifications “shall be entitled to vote at any election.” The Constitution originally stated that everyone who is born in the U.S. or was naturalized as a citizen can vote.

It is already illegal for noncitizens to vote in U.S. elections, and the amendment does not appear to change any laws in practice. But the bill’s proponents say the clarifying language would set a foundation for who is eligible to vote and avoid confusion.

The second amendment states that all types of voting in North Carolina require photo identification, whereas the state constitution previously only specified in-person voting. Similarly to the citizens-only voting, photo ID is already required for all voting types in the state.

The last amendment would set a cap on income taxes at 5% rather than the current 7%. Individual and corporate income tax rates both are below 5% in the state.

Photo voter ID and income tax cap amendments — which required photo ID to vote in person and to lower the income tax cap from 10% to 7% — were already approved by voters in November 2018, but are still being challenged in court by the state NAACP. Senate leader Phil Berger suggested this week that getting voters to make changes to these amendments in November could make the litigation moot.

House Speaker Tim Moore, a primary sponsor of a House version of the citizens-only referendum bill, told reporters on Thursday he supported the voter ID proposal but had not yet reviewed the income tax question.

Outside of potential referendums, the Senate is also eyeing changes to political advertising laws, ballot challenge procedures and signature verification. The bill’s provisions include the following:

1. Require the use of generative AI to be disclosed in political advertisements and outline that a violation would result in a misdemeanor.

2. Mandate county election boards to challenge early voting or absentee ballots cast if the person is deemed ineligible because of death or a felony record.

3. Implement signature verification software for absentee ballots across the state starting July 2025.

Democratic senators raised several concerns with the legislation, such as the reliability of signature verification by machines and the AI disclosure. Mecklenburg County Democratic Sen. Natasha Marcus said the bill doesn’t do enough to stop politicians from using AI for “nefarious” reasons.

Burke County Republican Sen. Warren Daniel responded to Marcus’ concern by telling her to provide an amendment for consideration.

But it could be awhile before the amendments pass the House.

With each legislative chamber uninterested in hearing the other’s spending proposal, lawmakers look ready to go on hiatus after next week while a stalemate simmers between Republicans over how to adjust the current two-year state budget.

“Perhaps during this summertime with a lot of heat, maybe a little cooling off might be a good thing,” Moore told colleagues Thursday after the full House gave final approval to its $31.7 billion plan for state government spending starting with the new fiscal year July 1.

But the Senate has signaled no interest in considering the measure, which passed the House 68-36 after a similar initial affirmative vote Wednesday night.

Senate GOP leaders instead advanced earlier Thursday their own $31.4 billion plan through a budget committee. Their measure contains 240 fewer pages than the House bill, omits scores of House provisions and declines to raise teacher and state worker salaries beyond what the enacted two-year plan already directs for the next 12 months.

Berger has expressed frustration with House counterparts over their higher spending levels and liberal use of reserve funds. Berger said later Thursday that his chamber plans to hold perfunctory floor sessions after the end of the month, then wait to see if continuing conversations lead to the House agreeing on a plan more to the Senate’s liking.

“We’ll roll into the new fiscal year,” Berger told reporters. “If they at whatever point decide to get serious about the spending number, we are willing, able and ready to go.” But he acknowledged it’s possible no agreement is ever reached.

Moore said there are also no plans in his chamber to hear the Senate budget bill, which is supposed to get a full Senate vote early next week. He accused senators of throwing into disarray negotiations that he said had brought the two sides much closer.

“What I got was the Senate just kind of moving on out there and filing their own bill without any consultation or notice from the House, and we will not respond well to negotiation tactics like that,” Moore said.

Having a two-year budget already in place eases the pressure upon legislators to hammer out alterations quickly. But the impasse increases risks for Republicans that two key provisions important to families that the chambers largely agree upon could be left behind.

Both the House and Senate budget versions contain $487 million for programs that help K-12 students attend private schools and eliminate large program waiting lists now and for the future. Most of the money would go toward the state’s Opportunity Scholarships, which experienced a sharp increase in applications because family income limits for recipients were eliminated in last year’s budget.

And the two chambers also support giving roughly $135 million to replace most of the money coming from the federal government for child care center grants that will expire in July.

Legislative Democrats and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper oppose expanding private school scholarships and say hundreds of millions of dollars more are needed to help child care centers stay open and grow.

“Republican legislators have proposed two terrible budgets that steal billions in taxpayer money from public schools and child care to pay for private school vouchers millionaires will use,” Cooper wrote Thursday on X. He can veto legislation but Republican legislators hold enough seats to override any veto if they vote and remain united.

The General Assembly convened this year’s primary work session in late April, but there’s no set session end date. So two chambers have the flexibility to return later in the summer for more business before adjourning permanently.

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