Updated Thursday 4pm
A highly anticipated judiciary committee meeting was held Thursday afternoon. For nearly 3 hours, Senate and House lawmakers discussed various merit selection proposals as well as new district maps for judges. Democrats were skeptical of the GOP plans, especially considering the number of maps drawn for legislative and Congressional members that heavily favored Republicans.
You can hear the full committee meeting here. The first hour merit selection was discussed. At around the hour mark, Republican Rep. Justin Burr began discussing his proposed maps.
The North Carolina Senate adjourned Wednesday after confirming several of Governor Roy Cooper and House leader Tim Moore's appointees to various boards and commissions. Senator Phil Berger said the Senate will re-convene Friday at 9:30am for a "skeletal session."
Meanwhile the House debated and voted unanimously for a bill addressing GenX, a contaminant that polluted the Cape Fear River affecting the drinking water for many in southeastern North Carolina, notably in Wilmington. Full debate on the bill is below.
Tensions between protesters and lawmakers marked the start of Wednesday's special legislative session. Protesters against proposed judicial changes packed the Senate and chanted "Shame" as the body recessed until 2pm. Jane Yokoyama traveled with dozens others from Asheville to Raleigh to raise objections to gerrymandering.
"How the courts were going to be redistricted this time around through the legislature, I just felt I needed to come down and show that I didn't want that to happen."
You can hear Yokoyama's full interview below.
Earlier, a rally organized by the North Carolina NAACP and other organizations decried Republican-led efforts to change district lines for judges and other proposed changes. Hanging over the protest was Tuesday's federal ruling striking down North Carolina Congressional maps as being overly partisan in favor of Republicans. NC NAACP leader, the Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman said the decision was a magical one.
"I am infuriated that we are having to exert so much energy into this day when we have to go and confront folks that ought not to be in their seats anyhow. They are rogues, usurpers! They're a kangaroo General Assembly!"
Republicans have had their maps repeatedly tossed by the courts, including state legislative districts. Those maps helped them amass a veto-proof supermajority in the legislature and a 10-3 Congressional advantage despite the state being relatively evenly split.
Among the speakers at the event was Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a former associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She was also a candidate for federal court in eastern North Carolina but never got a hearing, after her nomination was opposed by Republican Senator Richard Burr, who claimed President Obama reneged on a deal he'd made regarding another judge. The NAACP and others have suggested race was a motivating factor in the decision, especially in light of Burr and Republican Senator Thom Tillis' support of Thomas Farr for the same seat. Timmons-Goodson is a black woman. Farr was nominated by President Trump, and has a controversial history on race, which you can hear about in this discussion on The State of Things. Timmons-Goodson's full remarks at Wednesday's rally are below.
Anita Earls, Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and an announced candidate for North Carolina's Supreme Court in 2018 also made brief remarks, below.
It's unclear what, if any, changes lawmakers will make to the courts in this session. The newly created Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting met Thursday at 1pm. Western North Carolina lawmakers on the committee include Republican Senators Chuck Edwards (Henderson County) and Ralph Hise (Mitchell County) and Democratic Senator Terry Van Duyn (Buncombe County).
Lawmakers were expected to tackle issues like water quality in response to the Gen-X contamination affecting Wilmington and appointments to various boards and committees. Governor Roy Cooper, as well as teachers and parents of school children wanted them to address an unfunded class-size mandate they passed for elementary schools that districts have warned could force the layoffs of art and PE teachers. But action on that front is not expected until May, according to comments from Senate leader Phil Berger.
During a break Wednesday, Berger addressed the federal court ruling with reporters, saying "we have a real problem with the federal courts, in my opinion." The following audio is from the News and Observer of Raleigh: