Government Affairs Update
October 2023 NCBA Government Affairs:
North Carolina lawmakers are poring over proposed new election maps that will help decide control of the N.C. General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives for the rest of this decade. House and Senate committees met Thursday to discuss the maps, for the first time in public, and the maps may still be tweaked, but some version of the maps will likely be law by October 27.
Lawsuits challenging the lines are all but assured. The top Senate Democrat, Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake), intimated Thursday that the congressional maps, which are expected to result in either an 11-3 or 10-4 Republican majority, might violate the Voting Rights Act. Republican leaders have introduced two potential congressional maps, each of which could draw out one of North Carolina’s three Black representatives, either U.S. Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-Orange), or U.S. Rep. Don Davis (D-Greene). A top redistricting official, Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) said he and his fellow Republicans did not use racial data when drawing the maps. Senator Hise also said there are no plans for another public hearing. Lawmakers previously held three hearings around the state, but there were no maps to comment on at the time.
The state House and Senate maps would likely solidify Republican supermajorities in the state legislature, largely by redrawing the suburbs around Raleigh and Charlotte — counties where Democrats currently hold nearly all the legislative seats. Republicans defended their decision to use the maps to increase their political power at the legislature, citing a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year, by the court’s new Republican majority, giving them broad authority to gerrymander. “Political considerations are now allowed to be used,” Senator Warren Daniel (R-Burke) said. “So it might be that that criteria explains some of the changes.”
House members also met to discuss their own state House map, which lays out lines for their chamber’s 120 districts. The meeting focused not on the map but on procedure. House Redistricting Chairman Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) told members that the House relied heavily on data from past elections to draw state House districts, a common procedure that helps mapmakers predict the outcomes of elections and lock in power for one political party.
The House and Senate committees considering the maps will meet again early the week of October 23, and the maps are expected to be approved by the full House and Senate shortly thereafter.
As we are hopefully approaching the end of the 2023 long session, the substantive legislative work is nearing its conclusion. Likely only a budget technical corrections bill, an appointments bill, and a handful of outstanding conference reports remain for potential consideration.