The conservative-majority court granted a bid by Republican legislators in North Carolina to suspend the Jan. 9 order by a federal court panel in Greensboro that gave the Republican-controlled General Assembly until Jan. 24 to come up with a new map for U.S. House of Representatives districts.
Two liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, objected to the high court’s action
The Supreme Court’s decision to stay the order reduces the chance that the current district lines will be altered ahead of the November mid-term congressional elections. The court offered no reason for its decision.
The three-judge panel ruled that the Republican-drawn districts violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law by intentionally hobbling the electoral strength of non-Republican voters. Two of the three judges also said the plan ran afoul of the Constitution’s First Amendment by discriminating based on political belief and association.
Those judges on Tuesday refused to put the ruling on hold.
North Carolina’s congressional maps were challenged in two lawsuits by more than two dozen Democratic voters, the North Carolina Democratic Party and other groups.
Under current North Carolina congressional boundaries, Republicans won 10 of the 13 House districts in 2016, despite getting just 53 percent of the statewide vote.
The Supreme Court is currently examining two other cases from Wisconsin and Maryland involving claims that electoral districts were manipulated to keep the majority party in power in a manner that violated voters’ constitutional rights. That practice is called partisan gerrymandering.In the Wisconsin case, Democratic voters are challenging Republican-drawn legislative districts. In the Maryland case, Republicans are claiming Democratic lawmakers drew a congressional district in a way that would prevent a Republican candidate from winning.
The North Carolina dispute centers on a congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Republican-led legislature in 2016. The Republican lawmaker in charge of the plan said it was crafted to favor his party because he thinks “electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats.”
“But that is not a choice the Constitution allows legislative mapdrawers to make,” the lower court said in unanimously striking down the plan.Source: Supreme Court blocks redrawing of North Carolina congressional maps
President Trump has been urging Americans to check their 401(k) retirement plans for gains, but individuals aren’t alone in benefiting from the strong economy. State Treasurer Dale Folwell says the state is “seeing a surge” in retirement plan investment earnings for 2017. “We’re looking at a total return north of 13 percent for calendar year 2017. We’ve obviously had gains since the [new] year started,” Folwell said during his monthly conference call with reporters. “We do not have the numbers in. … It takes a little while to get everything aggregated. ”That return on investment would nearly double the state’s assumed rate of return of 7.2 percent.The state’s investments are riding a bull market on Wall Street that set 70 closing day records in 2017, and 90 since the 2016 election. The current investment mix is about 35 percent bonds in fixed income, and 65 percent in public and private equity, alternative investments, real estate, and other strategies.Folwell said other state retirement systems might be reaping larger earnings. That’s because of the state’s somewhat cautious risk profile. Returns will never go up as much as some pension plans do, and in bad economic times they’ll never lose as much as others. And, Folwell cautioned, profits were markedly below the target return on investment in the fiscal years that ended in June, and the one before that. The state still hasn’t met its stated return on investment on average for the past 17 years.“We still have a lot of work to do to make sure this remains one of the Top 5 funded pension plans in the United States,” Folwell said. Plan assets total $94 billion.The underfunded state health plan will continue to face challenges, Folwell said. Both Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget, which was not enacted, and the legislative budget that was adopted funded the state health plan at 4 percent growth. But prescription and general health costs are rising faster than that. As chairman of the state’s Local Government Commission, Falwell said he’s monitoring the partnership proposed by UNC Health Care and Carolinas HealthCare System. Both publicly owned health-care giants have used the commission to gain approval for bonds.“We need to determine how this merger impacts the bond rating,” and the likelihood they will be paid back, Folwell said. Focus also is being placed on how the plan affects accessibility and affordability of health care for state employees, and its effect on the state health plan.“We’re not going to be shy about it,” Folwell said. The treasurer said he’s launching a formal search for a new chief investment officer to replace Kevin SigRist, who unexpectedly resigned in July. Two acting chief investment officers have filled the breach since then.There have been seven CIOs in the past 15 years. Folwell speculated “you’re probably doing something wrong in terms of how you’re structured” with that rate of turnover, and he hopes to correct whatever issues might be involved.Source: N.C. sees ‘surge’ in retirement plan earnings, treasurer says – Carolina Journal
The General Assembly must come up with a new map for the 2018 elections by Jan. 24.
A panel of three federal judges in North Carolina struck down the state’s 2016 congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander on Tuesday.
The ruling blocks the state from conducting any elections under the 2016 map and orders the state’s General Assembly to redraw congressional districts by Jan. 24 for the 2018 elections.
The state will likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and ask for a stay. The Supreme Court is currently considering two other partisan gerrymandering cases, one about state legislative districts in Wisconsin and one about Maryland’s congressional map.
The filing deadline for congressional candidates in North Carolina is Feb. 28, and the primary is May 8.
The Jan. 24 deadline gives the General Assembly two weeks to come up with a remedial plan. But because it’s the middle of an election year, the court is also appointing a so-called special master to develop a remedial plan in case the the General Assembly fails to deliver a plan or their plan doesn’t remedy the partisan gerrymander.
The fact that North Carolina has a Democratic governor doesn’t give Democrats much control in this situation. The governor does not have power to veto a redistricting plan from the General Assembly, said Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program.
The state Democratic party praised the court’s decision Tuesday night, calling it “a major victory for North Carolina and people across the state whose voices were silenced by Republicans’ unconstitutional attempts to rig the system to their partisan advantage.”
Republicans were critical of the ruling.
“We’re going to fight these redistricting cases as far as we can because it really is no longer about the districts as drawn,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. “It is about whether the courts, in this case the the fourth circuit, are going to usurp legislative prerogative and authority, well established, and two, whether they are going to replace the legislature’s political judgments with its own political judgements — not its legal judgements,” Woodhouse said.
He expects the state to immediately appeal the decision.
“We are at least entitled to hear what the Supreme Court has to say about this issue,” Woodhouse said.There’s precedent for court-mandated redistricting during an election year in North Carolina. After a three-judge panel in February 2016 ruled that the GOP-legislature relied too heavily on race in 2011 to draw the 1st and 12th Districts, the General Assembly had to approve a new map for the 2016 elections.
The new map maintained Republicans’ partisan advantage in the delegation but shifted some incumbents’ districts, even putting two incumbents in the same district. The adoption of that new 2016 map forced the state to move its House primaries back to June.
Source: North Carolina Congressional Districts Struck Down for 2018