by David N. Bass
Contributor, Carolina Journal
Heading into next week’s constitutional amendment session in the N.C. General Assembly, I’m reminded of a common argument that Democrats made earlier this year when debating proposed amendments: the state constitution is too sacred to be inserting certain principles.
Specifically, some Democrats used that line of reasoning against a “sunshine” amendment, eminent domain amendment, and an amendment term limiting legislative leaders. In each instance, they suggested a statutory change rather than altering the constitution. (In the case of the term limits, Democrats suggested simply changing the House and Senate rules, an even less permanent safeguard than a statutory change.)
That’s why I find it curious that all members of the legislature — including Democrats — voted in favor of an amendment in 2010 that bans convicted felons from running for sheriff in North Carolina. Voters overwhelmingly ratified the amendment in November 2010, but that’s not the point. The point is that Democrats supported amending the state constitution for a tertiary issue.
On the scale of importance, aren’t property rights more important than whether a felon files to run for sheriff? Isn’t government transparency more important? I’m not arguing (at least here) whether legislators should have voted for the felon ban. But to then turn around and make the argument that an eminent domain or “sunshine” amendment shouldn’t be passed because non-essential issues shouldn’t be included in the constitution — well, that strikes me as disingenuous.