A Mike Stone-sponsored amendment buried in the depths of the North Carolina General Assembly’s election omnibus bill has “screwed” Wake County’s efforts to hold a transit bond referendum in 2015, according to one legislative observer.
Stone’s amendment prohibits counties from holding bond or tax elections in odd-numbered years.
That’s problematic for some in Wake County who had been hoping to vote in 2015 on whether to implement a half-cent sales tax to pay for a transit improvement plan. Stone’s amendment would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 “and applies to all special elections held on or after that date.” That would remove 2015 from consideration for that vote.
The full measure, which has the uber-sexy title “Omnibus Election Clarification,” is a mishmash of minor changes or corrections to various election laws. It has passed both the state House and Senate and now awaits Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature.
One twitter user, Gerry Cohen, said Friday morning that the bill “screws” Wake County. Cohen was, until his retirement Thursday, the General Assembly’s special legal counsel.
“… counties, municipalities, and special districts are encouraged to set a date that will result in the highest possible voter turnout,” the amendment reads, offering insight into Stone’s reasoning for introducing the new measure. The amendment then goes on to list strict guidelines for when counties can hold bond votes – at the same time as any other state or county general or primary election (even numbered years) or the same time as any other election requiring all precincts in a given county to be open. The only time bond votes may be held in odd-numbered years is “if the special election is within the jurisdiction of the municipality only,” as was the case with the 2013 municipal bonds in Sanford.
In another tweet, Cohen said that Wake County’s dashed hopes for 2015 are “collateral damage” in a fight Stone is having with his home county:
Could the “fight with Lee County” he references be the series of well-documented disagreements over Stone’s controversial local bills?
The bill, if signed, wouldn’t affect the upcoming CCCC bonds, which are set for Lee County’s ballot in November. But with Lee County in dire need need of at least one new elementary school, a bond vote to fund that wouldn’t be possible until at least 2016.
So, fight or no, it appears Mike Stone believes in the people’s right to vote – as long as he gets to choose when they do it.