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Senate Bill 642 - Independent Redistricting Commission

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Independent Redistricting Commission (S642)

Part I.

Effective beginning with the redistricting done upon the return of the 2030 decennial census, enacts Section 25 to Article II of the NC Constitution to charge the NCGA with establishing by law an independent process to revise the electoral districts for Congress and the NCGA after return of the decennial census, subject to the following limitations. Prohibits NCGA involvement in revising electoral districts. Requires each NCGA member and US House member to represent as equal numbers of inhabitants as possible. Mandates districts to consist of contiguous territory. Prohibits division of a county for NCGA districts to the extent practicable and consistent with federal law. Mandates that the districts remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census. Grants adopted electoral districts legislative force and effect. Makes conforming changes to Sections 3 and 5 of Article II to charge the NCGA with establishing an independent process to revise legislative districts and the apportionment of legislators among those districts. Effective beginning with the redistricting done upon the return of the 2030 decennial census, amends Section 5 of Article II to require that every bill in which the General Assembly makes an appointment or appointments to public office must be read three times in each house before it becomes law and must also be signed by the presiding officers of each house. (Currently, applies to bills that solely pertain to: appointments, revisions to senatorial and representative districts, and revisions to districts for elections to the US House of Representatives.) Subject to approval by voters of the State at the general election in November 2024.

Enacts Article 1B, Redistricting, to GS Chapter 120. Sets forth 15 defined terms. Establishes the NC Citizen Redistricting Commission (Commission), charged with preparing preliminary, proposed, and alternative plans for legislative and congressional apportionment and adopting final plans for the purpose of nominating and electing legislative and congressional members. Details Commission member eligibility, including residency and voter registration requirements, and a number of disqualifications, among them: contributing more than $1,000 to any candidate for public office and no more than $10,000 in total to candidates for public office, having been a staff member or legal counsel to the NCGA, having served in any public office except if the candidate has served in a federal or State recognized Native American tribe, having held any political appointment, and having been convicted of a crime against a governmental body of the United States or a crime with a direct connection to espionage, terrorism, treason, sabotage, sedition, and insurrection (including the following: overthrowing or attacking any governmental body of the United States, preventing any official of any governmental body of the United States from performing his or her official duties, or preventing persons from exercising their rights under the laws of any governmental body of the United States).

Bars a person having served as a member of the Commission from holding any public office until conclusion of the term they were appointed so serve, even if they resign or are removed prior to the conclusion of their term. Details member application procedures, including applying to the State Auditor with relevant information and disclosures for eligibility review, who will then review the application pool and submit a diverse group of up to 60 applicants to the NCGA, as specified. Requires the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate President Pro Tempore, and Senate Minority leader to each strike six candidates. After that occurs, provides for selection of 15 diverse Commission members, as specified. Sets terms at 10 years. Details other parameters of the Commission, including appointment of a chair, removal from office, vacancies, and reimbursement of member expenses. Provides for a $2,000 stipend for each month the Commission meets. Details Commission staffing and the application of open meetings and public records laws.

Enumerates six criteria that all redistricting plans must meet, including electoral impartiality and minimization of the number of split communities of interest, as defined. Provides for Commission adoption of preliminary, proposed, alternative, and final plans depending on appointed member affiliations. Directs the State Auditor to submit to the Commission a list of qualified persons who can serve as a special master, who must draw and submit a plan that the Commission must adopt in the event a plan cannot be adopted pursuant to the statute. Provides for appointment of the special master by the Commission, depending on appointed member affiliations.

Mandates the Commission hold a minimum of 20 public hearings across the State, requiring providing the seven enumerated resources for public input, including sufficient time to review the plan, access to demographic data and mapping software.

Authorizes the NCGA to assign to the Commission the duty to prepare district plans for local government if their governing board or an appropriate court so requests.

Provides for Commission member terms to begin on January 1, 2023, and conclude on June 30, 2030, for any redistricting that might occur pursuant to GS 120-2.4 based on data from the 2020 federal census.

Makes the above statutory and uncodified provisions effective January 1, 2030, subject to voter approval of the constitutional amendments set forth in this Part.

Part II.

Makes conforming changes to GS 120-2.3 regarding judgments invalidating apportionment or redistricting acts.

Makes conforming changes to GS 120-2.4, requiring a court to grant the Commission two weeks' time to remedy any defects a court has identified in a plan apportioning or redistricting legislative or congressional districts prior to the court imposing its own substitute plan. Makes further conforming changes.

Repeals GS 120-133, which provides for the confidentiality of NCGA redistricting communications until plans become law.

Effective January 1, 2030, subject to voter approval of the constitutional amendments set forth in Part I of the act. (UNC Legislative Reporting)