Yesterday, a bill allowing for a November 2, 2010 referendum on a constitutional amendment prohibiting felons from becoming sheriffs in North Carolina was ratified. The bill, HB1307, passed with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate and was sponsored by Rep. Ronnie Sutton (D-Robeson).
Similarly, Reps. Paul Stam (R-Wake) and David Lewis (R-Harnett) sponsored legislation, HB1659, which would require a referendum to pass a constitutional amendment reinforcing statutory constraints on the state’s eminent domain powers. The bill was heard in committee a few weeks ago, was reported favorably, and passed the House by a large margin on June 28. Originally the bill proposed that the referendum be held on November 2, 2010 but Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) introduced an amendment – which passed – pushing the referendum back to the November 6, 2012 election, citing concerns that it is too late in the process to add a referendum to the ballot.
However, Rep. Glazier voted in favor of the bill calling for a referendum to add a constitutional amendment prohibiting felons from becoming sheriffs to be held in 2010. Interestingly enough, the bills to add referenda to the ballot were passed through the House within days of one another. Why was it not too late to add the “no felon as sheriff” referendum to the ballot while it was too late to add the eminent domain referendum?
Cynics might believe that Rep. Glazier, whose liberal Democrat Caucus stands to lose a few seats in the House in 2010, does not want an eminent domain referendum on the ballot because it would energize conservatives for whom the eminent domain issue is a source of great political energy. Such an energized conservative base would likely lead to a disproportionately higher Republican turnout in a midterm election where turnout may be a decisive factor. If the referendum is on the ballot in 2012, liberals will be able to rely on President Obama’s name on the ticket to match the conservative energy. Such a cynical perspective may be excessive. After all, politicians’ motives typically rise above petty politics.