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View NCGA Bill Details2021
Senate Bill 716 (Public) Filed Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Intro. by J. Jackson, Mohammed, Salvador.

Status: Ref To Com On Rules and Operations of the Senate (Senate action) (Apr 14 2021)

Bill History:

S 716

Bill Summaries:

  • Summary date: Apr 13 2021 - View Summary

    Identical to H 542, filed 4/13/21.

    Includes whereas clauses.

    Part I.

    Section 1.1

    Establishes requirements for revising legislative and congressional districts following the return of the 2020 census, listed in order of priority. Requires each member of each body to represent an equal number of inhabitants as possible, with the population for a legislative district within 5% of the ideal population for that district (as described) and the population for congressional districts within 0.1% of the ideal population for that district. Requires all districts to comply with the federal and state laws and constitutions. Requires all districts to minimize the number of split counties; be composed of convenient contiguous territory (exclude areas meeting only at points of adjoining corners); minimize the number of split municipalities; and be compact to the extent practicable (prohibiting bypassing nearby communities for more distant ones). Prohibits the NCGA from considering electoral results, political considerations, or incumbency in the preparation of legislative districts unless required by federal law. Requires legislative districts to minimize the number of split communities of interest, as defined. Prohibits splitting precincts for legislative districts, unless required by federal law. 

    Sections 1.2 through 1.4

    Subject to voter approval at the November 2022 general election, 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 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. Makes these constitutional amendments effective upon certification.

    Enacts Article 1B, Redistricting, to GS Chapter 120. Sets forth 14 defined terms. Establishes the NC Citizen Redistricting Commission (Commission), charged with preparing preliminary, proposed, and alternative plans for legislative and congressional apportionment and to adopt 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 $2,000 to any candidate for public office, having been a staff member of or legal counsel to the NCGA, having served in any public office in the preceding 10 years, having held any political appointment, and having been a member of an organization that advocates overthrowing or attacking any governmental body in the US. Bars a person having served as a member of the Commission from holding any public office for three years following termination of service. Details member application procedures, including applying to the State Auditor with relevant information and disclosures for eligibility review, then to the Human Relations Commission for review and submission of a diverse group of up to 60 applicants to the NCGA, as specified, with eight legislatively appointed members from the pool of candidates and seven randomly selected members by the Human Relations Commission from the pool of candidates. 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 $1,200 stipend for each month the Commission meets. Details Commission staffing and the application of open meetings and public records laws.

    Enumerates nine criteria that all redistricting plans must meet, including electoral impartiality, minimization of the number of split communities of interest, as defined, and minimization of precincts split in preparation of a plan. 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 which 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. Requires adoption of all plans by October 1 following each federal census. Details the maximum time line the Commission must follow in adoption of a plan, which provides for public hearings following receipt of data from the Census Bureau; release of preliminary plans to the public and further public hearings; release of proposed plans, alternative plans and summaries; and the Commission holding a vote to adopt final plans, or selection of a special master to prepare, release and present a plan to the Commission that the Commission must adopt. Provides for extensions for good cause, as specified. 

    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, 2023, subject to voter approval of the constitutional amendments set forth in this Part.

    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, 2023, subject to voter approval of the constitutional amendments set forth in Section 1.2 of the act.

    Part II.

    Enacts new Article 26 to GS Chapter 163, Nomination and Election of Appellate Justices and Judges, providing the following. 

    New GS 163-350 provides for the applicability of Article 26 to the nomination and election of justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Appeals (hereafter, justices and judges).

    New GS 163-351 provides for a nonpartisan primary election method for the nomination of justices and judges when there are more than two candidates for a single office or the number of candidates for a group of offices exceeds twice the number of positions to be filled when the filing period closes. Provides for the canvass of the primary and determination of nominations in the primary and election winners. 

    New GS 163-352 provides for the form for notice of candidacy, the withdrawal of candidacy, and the certification of the candidate as a registered voter. Requires justices and judges to file their notices of candidacy with the State Board of Elections (State Board) no earlier than noon on the second Monday in December and no later than noon on the third Friday in December preceding the election. Prohibits any person from filing a notice of candidacy for more than one office or group of offices governed by Article 26 or GS 163-106.2, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, all State executive officers, superior and district court judges, US Congress members, and district attorneys. Requires designation of candidacy at the time of filing when there are two or more vacancies for the office of justice or judge.

    New GS 163-353 establishes a filing fee of 1% of the annual salary of the office sought. Provides for fee refunds for the withdrawal of candidacy or upon death of the candidate, as specified.

    New GS 163-354 provides for the filing of a written petition in lieu of payment of the filing fee, as specified.

    New GS 163-355 provides for the certification of notices of candidacy by the State Board and subsequent notification of local boards of elections.

    New GS 163-356 authorizes the State Board to extend the filing period for five days for any offices for which candidates have not filed that are to be filled under Article 26. Details the process to be followed when a candidate is disqualified or dies before the primary, a candidate is alive and fails to withdraw after close of filing, or a candidate dies, is qualified, or fails to qualify after the person is elected. 

    New GS 163-357 provides for elections to fill a vacancy in an office that is created after the primary filing period opens but more than 60 days before the general election. Provides that the State Board must designate a special filing period of one week for candidates for that office. Provides for a second primary election if two or more qualified candidates file and the vacancy occurs more than 63 days before the date of the second primary for members of the General Assembly, and a general election if two or more qualified candidates file and the vacancy occurs more than 64 days before the date of the second primary which must be held on the same day as the general election for members of the General Assembly. 

    New GS 163-358 permits any person who will become qualified by age or residence to register to vote in the general election for which the primary is held, even though not so qualified by the date of the primary, to register for the primary and general election prior to the primary and then to vote in the primary after being registered. Prohibits such persons from registering earlier than 60 days nor later than the last day for making application to register for primary elections pursuant to GS 163-82.6(d) prior to the primary. 

    New GS 163-359 sets the primary date for the same date as established for primary elections under GS 163-1(b), which provides for primaries to be on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in May preceding each general election to be held in November.

    New GS 163-360 provides for the form of official ballots. Requires official ballots to be printed by the county board of elections, as specified. Provides requirements for the distribution of official ballots.

    New GS 163-361 provides for counting ballots in primaries and elections to be in the same manner for nonpartisan municipal elections under Article 24 of GS Chapter 163.

    New GS 163-362 establishes that the conduct of elections are governed by Article 12 of GS Chapter 163 (Precincts and Voting Places), except as provided by Article 26.

    Makes conforming changes to GS 18C-112(e)(1), GS 163-1(b), GS 163-22.3, GS 163-82.10B, GS 163-106.2(a), GS 163-106.3, GS 163-107(a), GS 163-107.1(b), and GS 163-111(c)(1).

    Amends GS 163-122 to exempt elections under new Article 26 of GS Chapter 163 from the provisions for unaffiliated candidates nominated by petition. Amends GS 163-123 to exempt nonpartisan elections, except for elections under new Article 26 of GS Chapter 163, from the statute's provisions concerning declaration of intent and petitions for write-in candidates in partisan elections.

    Effective January 1, 2021, and applies to elections held on or after that date.

    Part III.

    Amends GS 120-304, extending the amount of time that a former legislator must wait before registering as a lobbyist to two years. Previously the waiting period was either the close of session or six months after leaving office, whichever was later. Extends the amount of time a public servant or former public servant must wait before registering as a lobbyist to two years after leaving office or end of employment (was, six months). Extends the amount of time an employee of any State agency must wait before registering to lobby the State agency that previously employed them to two years (was, six months). 

    Effective October 1, 2021.

    Part IV.

    Amends GS 163-82.5 by adding the requirement that the State Board of Elections make the voter registration application forms available for completion and submission on a secure website.

    Enacts new GS 163-82.5A allowing an individual to register to vote or change voter registration online if the individual: (1) is eligible to register to vote and (2) possesses a current and valid North Carolina driver's license (including a learner's permit or provisional license) or a special identification card for nonoperators. Requires the State Board to establish a secure website for the completion and submission of voter registration applications. Specifies information that the website must allow an individual to submit, including information to establish eligibility and the individual's email address. Requires the county board of elections, upon receipt of an online application, to verify specified applicant information. Requires the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to transfer the applicant's digital signature in the DMV records to the State Board if the State Board verifies the driver's license or Social Security number. Requires the State Board to notify the applicant if the State Board cannot verify the driver's license or Social Security number.

    Amends GS 163-82.10 to add specified identifying information submitted during the online voter registration application process to the information that is confidential.

    Effective December 1, 2021.

    Part V.

    Amends GS 163-82.3 and GS 163-82.6 authorizing county boards of elections to accept automatic voter registration.

    Amends GS 163-82.19 to require, beginning January 1, 2022, the Division of Motor Vehicles, in consultation with the State Board of Elections, to develop and implement a method by which eligible individuals shall be automatically registered to vote. Requires DMV officials taking driver's license applications to affirmatively inquire whether the applicant wishes to register to vote or update their registration, note the applicant's response, and register the applicant to vote if the applicant wishes. The applicant must attest to the information provided for voter registration. Confidentiality of voter information must be maintained by the State Board of Elections.

    The above provisions are effective January 1, 2022.

    Amends GS 163-82.20 to require, beginning January 1, 2023, voter registration agencies (which include state offices that accept applications for public assistance or provide services for persons with disabilities or for unemployment benefits) to provide, in consultation with the State Board of Elections, an application process for automatic voter registration with each recertification, renewal, or change of address relating to the service or assistance of the agency.  Specifies certain procedural requirements substantially similar to those provided for in GS 163-82.19, as amended. Does not require an agency to provide automatic voter registration to a person with a disability at the person's home. Requires electronic transmittal of applications to the appropriate board of elections.

    Amends GS 163-82.20A to authorize automatic voter registration at the time of restoration of citizenship, effective January 1, 2020. Further amends the statute to authorize online voter registration at the time of restoration of citizenship, effective January 1, 2022.

    Part VI.

    Amends GS 143-318.14A to specify that reasonable public notice (might intend to require adequate public notice, as defined below) of all commission, committee, and standing subcommittee meetings must be given to all General Assembly members; members of the commission, committee, or subcommittee; and to the Legislative Services Office (was, only that reasonable public notice must be given without specifying the recipient of the notice). Requires that the notice be posted on General Assembly’s website by the Legislative Services Office.  Defines adequate public notice as written or electronic notice that is posted and mailed or e-mailed to those who requested notice at least 48 hours before the time of the meeting.  Requires that the notice include the time, date, location, and to the extent known, the agenda of the meeting. Requires that the agenda for a noticed meeting be readily available for public inspection no less than 24 hours in advance of the time of the meeting and prohibits changing the agenda except for items of an emergency nature, after the notice has been made available to the public. Requires that commission, committee, or standing subcommittee members receive the text of all bills, proposed committee substitutes, and amendments that will be considered during the scheduled meeting no later than 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Prohibits considering or acting on a bill, proposed committee substitute, or amendment that has not been made available to the members as required.

    Requires the Legislative Services Office to develop a plan to install equipment providing live video and audio of floor proceedings and committee meetings. Requires the plan to provide for: (1) public participation and comment to the extent allowed by the streaming technology and (2) access to the recorded live stream on a centralized website within 48 hours after all floor proceedings or committee meetings. Also requires the plan to include estimated costs and an implementation schedule. The plan must be submitted to the chairs of the Legislative Services Commission and the chairs of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government by April 1, 2022.

    Part VII.

    Amends the procedure for absentee voting under GS 163-231 to only require one witness instead of two. Makes conforming changes including removing the provision allowing one notary to act as a witness instead of the two witnesses.  Makes conforming changes to GS 163-229. Amends GS 163-230.2 to allow a request form for an absentee ballot to be delivered to the county board of elections in person or by mail, email, or fax.

    Part VIII.

    Amends GS 163-129 by adding that the county board of election’s ability to demand and use any school or other State, county, or municipal building, or any other building, which is supported or maintained with tax revenues, also includes ensuring the use of voting places on college campuses with at least an enrollment of 4,500 students.

    Part IX.

    Amends GS 163-82.14 to require a county board of elections to remove a voter from its list of registered voters when a postcard sent by nonforwardable mail from the county board of elections is returned as undeliverable (deletes the provision requiring removal for a voter who fails to respond to a confirmation mailing sent by the county board and who does not vote or appear to vote in an election beginning on the date of the notice and ending on the day after the date of the second general election for the US House of Representatives that occurs after the date of the notice).

    Part X.

    Amends GS 163-278.12 (special reporting of contributions and independent expenditures) and GS 163-278.12C (special reporting of electioneering communications) by adding the following. Requires that filers reporting donations of $1,000 or more under the aggregate (except for political committees that do not receive more than $5,200 from any one person in an election) disclose the identity of the original source (as defined in the act) of the funds, the amounts of those donations, and any intermediaries who transferred the funds before they were contributed to the filer. Requires any person or entity making a donation of $1,000 or more, in the aggregate, in an election to a person or entity required to report donations under these requirements to inform that person or entity of the identity of the original sources of funds being transferred, the amounts of the persons' original funds being transferred, and the identity of any persons who previously transferred the original funds.

    Amends GS 163-278.39 by adding the following requirement to those that must be met in order for any sponsor to sponsor an advertisement in the print media or on radio or television that constitutes an expenditure, independent expenditure, electioneering communication, or contribution that is required to be disclosed. Requires that an advertisement made by a sponsor other than a candidate, political party organization, an individual solely spending the individual's own personal funds received through wages, investment income, or bequests or a person solely spending money received through ordinary commercial transactions include the legend or include the specified statement naming the top three donors who helped pay for the message.

    Part XI.

    Amends GS 163-278.6 (applicable to Article 22A, Regulating Contributions and Expenditures in Political Campaigns) by defining the term digital communication as any communication, for a fee, placed or promoted on a public-facing website, web application, or digital application, including a social network, advertising network, or search engine. Amends the definition of electioneering communication to include a digital communication that meets all of the already specified criteria. Also amends the definition of advertisement in GS 163-278.38Z (applicable to Part 1A, Disclosure Requirements for Media Advertisements), to include messaging through digital communication that constitutes a contribution or expenditure.

    Amends GS 163-278.39 by making the statute’s requirements for political advertisements applicable to the sponsorship of an advertisement through digital communication. Establishes size and content requirements for digital communication advertisements. Makes conforming changes.

    Amends GS 163-278.39C to make the statute’s disclosure requirements applicable to the sponsor of an advertisement though digital communication.

    Enacts new GS 163-278.39D requiring that digital communication covered by GS 163-278.39(a) (setting out the requirements to be met for any sponsor to sponsor an advertisement in the print media or on radio or television that constitutes an expenditure, independent expenditure, electioneering communication, or contribution required to be disclosed) to submit that digital communication to the State Board of Elections along with the disclosure information required under G.S. 163-278.39. That information is to be on the State Board of Elections website and is deemed public record. Sets out information that must be included on the website.

    Effective September 1, 2021.

    Part XII.

    Amends GS 163-278.39 by adding that a foreign national expending funds for political advertising that addresses a specific issue to influence State or local government policy must include a statement in the advertisement (1) that identifies the foreign national and (2) disclosing that the foreign national sponsored the advertising.

    Part XIII.

    Enacts GS 163-278.12B requiring a political committee that makes only independent expenditures to notify the Board of Elections of any: (1) contribution in excess of $1,000 received by the committee before an election but after the period covered by the last report due before that election and (2) any contribution or donation in excess of $1,000 made by the committee before an election but after the period covered by the last report due before that election. Sets out required timing of the notifications. Requires a person who receives such contribution or donation and transfers more than $1,000 of the funds to another person to disclose specified information on the contribution to that person when the transfer is made.

    Part XIV.

    Enacts new Article 22J of GS Chapter 163 providing as follows, effective when the act becomes law, with distributions from the Fund beginning in the 2022 election year. States the purpose of Article 22J. Establishes the North Carolina Public Campaign Fund (Fund) as an alternative source of campaign financing for candidates who demonstrate public support and voluntarily accept strict fundraising and spending limits. Provides that the Article is available to candidates for justice of the Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Appeals in elections held in 2022 and thereafter. The Fund is to finance the election campaigns of certified candidates for office and to pay administrative and enforcement costs of the State Board of Elections (Board). 

    The following are sources of money in the Fund: (1) designations made by taxpayers to the Public Campaign Fund, (2) Fund revenues distributed for an election that remain unspent or uncommitted at the time the recipient is no longer a certified candidate in the election, (3) money ordered returned to the Fund, (4) voluntary donations made directly to the Fund, and (5) money collected from the $60 surcharge on attorney membership fees (this provision is effective January 1, 2022, and applies to membership fees due for 2022).

    Requires individuals choosing to receive campaign funds from the Fund to file a declaration of intent to participate as a candidate for a stated office. Sets out requirements for the timing of the filing and for the an affirmation that only one political committee will handle all contributions, expenditures, and obligations for the candidate and that the candidate will comply with the contribution and expenditure limits and other requirements. Requires participating candidates seeking certification to receive campaign funds from the Fund to first obtain qualifying contributions from at least 425 registered voters for Supreme Court candidates, or 400 registered voters for Court of Appeals candidates, in a sum not to exceed the specified amount of maximum qualifying contributions. Sets out the procedure under which the Board will certify candidates as meeting the necessary requirements. 

    Sets out the following restrictions on contributions and expenditures with respect to participating and certified candidates. (1) Beginning January 1 of the year before the election and before the filing of a declaration of intent, a candidate for office may accept in contributions up to $25,000 from sources and in amounts permitted by Article 22A and may expend up to $25,000 for any campaign purpose. Candidates exceeding these limits will be ineligible to file a declaration of intent or receive funds from the Fund. (2) From the filing of a declaration of intent through the end of the qualifying period, a candidate may accept only qualifying contributions, contributions under $10 from North Carolina voters, and personal and  family contributions. The total contributions the candidate may accept during this period must not exceed the defined maximum qualifying contributions for that candidate. In addition to these contributions, the candidate may expend during this period only the remaining money raised under (1). With named exceptions, multiple contributions from the same contributor to the same  candidate must not exceed $500. (3) After the qualifying period and through the date of the general election, the candidate must expend only the funds the candidate received from the Fund pursuant to GS 163-278.155(b)(4) (funds distributed in a contested general election in specified amounts for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidates) plus any funds remaining from the qualifying period. (4) During the qualifying period, the candidate may contribute up to $1,000 of that candidate's own money to the campaign. Allows accepting contributions of $1,000 from each member of that candidate's family (spouse, parent, child, brother, and sister). Allows treating up to $500 of a contribution from the candidate's family member as a qualifying contribution if it meets specified requirements. (5) Requires a candidate and the candidate's committee to limit the use of all revenues permitted by this subsection to expenditures for campaign-related purposes only. (6) Any contribution received by a participating or certified candidate that falls outside what is permitted must be returned to the donor as soon as practicable. Contributions intentionally made, solicited, or accepted in violation of this Article are subject to civil penalties. (7) Requires a candidate to return to the Fund any amount distributed for an election that is unspent and uncommitted at the date of the election, or at the time the individual ceases to be a certified candidate, whichever occurs first. Allows a decision to participate in the Fund to be revoked by the specified deadline.

    Allows candidates in elections under GS 163-358 (appears to intend GS 163-357, as enacted, filling vacancies in office created after primary filing period opens) to participate in the Fund and sets out requirements for such candidates.

    Requires distributions from the Fund to be made within five business days after a certified candidate's name is approved to appear on the ballot in a contested general election, but no earlier than five business days after the primary. Sets out the amounts to be distributed from the fund in contested general elections. 

    Sets out candidate reporting requirements. 

    Violations of the Article can result in a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation or three times the amount of any financial transaction involved in the violation, whichever is greater. Also, for good cause shown, may require candidates to return distributed amounts to the Fund.

    Recodifies GS 163-278.69 as GS 163-278.158.

    Amends GS 84-34 by requiring active members of the North Carolina State Bar to pay a $60 surcharge for the Fund, with the option for the member to designate that the surcharge required be used in its entirety for the Judicial Voter Guide described in GS 163-278.158, as recodified. Effective January 1, 2022, and applies to membership fees due for 2022.

    Enacts GS 105-159.3, directing the Department of Revenue to allocate $3 from the income taxes paid each year by each individual with an income tax liability of at least that amount to the Fund, subject to each taxpayer's individual approval. Provides for notice and opportunity for the taxpayer to elect this allocation, as well as instructions for individual income tax returns. Provides for requirements for the Department under the new statute, including consultation with the State Board and parameters regarding software packages used to prepare income tax returns. Effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2022. 

    Makes conforming changes to GS 163-278.5, GS 163-278.32, GS 163-278.99E, and SL 2013-381, Section 38.1(a).

    Makes conforming repeals of SL 2013-360(i), (j), and (l); and SL 2013-381, Section 38.1(l), (m), and (o).

    Unless otherwise indicated, effective January 1, 2022.

    Part XV.

    Makes it unlawful to try to evade the reporting and disclosure requirements of Parts X through XIV of the act by structuring, or attempting to structure, any solicitation, contribution, donation, expenditure, disbursement, or other transaction, punishable by at least the amount contributed or undisclosed, but not to exceed double the amount contributed or undisclosed.

    Part XVI.

    Includes a severability clause.

    Part XVII.

    Provides that the act is effective on the date the act becomes law, unless otherwise provided.