A long-shot attempt to force a vote on creating an independent redistricting commission in North Carolina became a little bit longer Thursday. A Raleigh state senator tried to start the process of forcing the bill he supports to a vote, but a procedural maneuver by legislative leaders will require Sen. Jay Chaudhuri to wait 10 days – and lawmakers’ regular session may be over by then. Senate rules allow members to file discharge petitions to dislodge bills that have been stuck in committees without action. The petition must be signed by at least two-thirds of the chamber. There are 35 Republicans and 15 Democrats in the Senate. The 10-day pause applies to when Chadhuri can start collecting signatures. Chaudhuri, a Democrat, read most of a prepared statement on the Senate floor giving notice of his intention to file a petition to bring Senate Bill 209 to a vote of the Senate. Chaudhuri and four other Democrats filed the bill nearly four weeks ago; it has not been taken up in a committee since then. It would establish a commission to redraw state legislative and congressional districts without partisan consideration. Common Cause and other groups have been pushing for the independent body for years.
Federal courts have struck down North Carolina congressional and legislative districts as racial gerrymanders, affirmed by U.S. Supreme Court rulings in May and June. A lower court is considering when lawmakers must redraw legislative districts.
Before he was cut off by Republican procedural efforts, Chaudhuri took a slap at Republican lawmakers and, especially, the contentious state budget being passed this week.
“Today I ask the Senate to give the people of North Carolina the honest debate we owe them,” Chaudhuri said. … For the past two sessions, the ruling party has stripped power from the executive branch. The ruling party has injected politics into our judicial branch. The budget passed yesterday was spiteful – taking partisan shots at elected officials from the opposing party.”