Bill Summary for H 68 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

Feb 8 2023

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
House Bill 68 (Public) Filed Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Intro. by John, Morey, A. Jones.

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Bill summary

Part I.

Adds new Subchapter XI, Election of Appellate, Superior, and District Court Judges, consisting of Article 26, Nomination and Election of Appellate, Superior, and District Court Judges, in GS Chapter 163, providing as follows. 

Requires that justices of the Supreme Court, judges of the Court of Appeals, and superior and district court judges be elected using the nonpartisan primary election method. Requires that there be a primary to narrow the field of candidates to two candidates for each position to be filled if, when the filing period closes, 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. Sets out provisions for declaring candidates as nominated when these thresholds for primaries are not met. Sets out the process for declaring nominees and for determining election winners, including breaking a tie. Includes the required format of the notice of candidacy form as well as requirements for signing the form. Requires judicial candidates to file notice of candidacy between noon on the first Monday in December and noon on the third Friday in December preceding the election. Allows the notice of candidacy to be withdrawn by the specified dates. Requires filing, along with the notice of candidacy a certification that the person is registered to vote in a particular county. Prohibits filing a notice of candidacy for more than one judicial office. Requires a candidate, when there are two or more vacancies for Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, or district court, to file a written statement designating the vacancy to which the candidate seeks election; requires the same of a person seeking election for a specialized district judgeship. Sets out residency requirements for candidates for superior court judge. 

Sets a required filing fee of 1% of the annual salary of the office sought. Allows the filing fee to be refunded upon withdrawing candidacy or upon the candidate's death. Allows, instead of paying the filing fee, a person to file a written petition requesting to be a candidate. For candidates seeking judicial office, the petition must be submitted by the stated date and time and must be signed by (1) 8,000 registered voters for Supreme Court or Court of Appeals candidates and (2) 5% of the registered voters of the election area in which those voters will vote for superior or district court judge candidates. 

Provides the process for certifying candidates' names with the Secretary of State and county boards of elections. 

Sets out rules governing elections when there is a vacancy in a superior court judgeship.

Sets out provisions concerning when there are an insufficient number of candidates, and when a candidate dies or is disqualified.  

Sets out procedure for instances where a vacancy is created in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, or superior court after the filing period for the primary opens but more than 60 days before the general election and an election is required to be held for that position.

Allows a person who will become qualified to register and vote in the general election for which the primary is held, even though not so qualified by the primary, to register for the primary and general election before the primary and then to vote in the primary. 

Requires the primary to be held on the same date as the one established for primaries under GS 163-1(b). 

Sets out ballot requirements and requirements for counting ballots.

Effective with respect to primaries and elections held on or after January 1, 2024.

Part II.

Makes conforming and clarifying changes to GS 18C-112, GS 163-1, GS 163-22.3, GS 163-82.10B, GS 163-106.2, GS 163-106.3, GS 163-106.5, GS 163-107, GS 163-107.1, GS 163-108, GS 163-111, GS 163-114, GS 163-122, GS 163-123, and GS 163-165.5. Makes language gender neutral.

Effective with respect to primaries and elections held on or after January 1, 2024.

Part III.

Recodifies GS 163A-278.69 as GS 163-278.129.

Enacts new GS Chapter 163, Article 22I, the North Carolina Public Campaign Fund, providing as follows, effective when the act becomes law, with distributions from the Fund beginning in the 2024 election year. States the purpose of the Article. 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 fund-raising 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 2024 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 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 $50 surcharge on attorney membership fees.

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 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 350 registered voters in a sum that equals at least the specified amount of minimum qualifying contributions but that does not exceed the specified amount of maximum qualifying contributions. Sets out the procedure under which the Board will certify candidates as meeting the necessary requirements. 

Set 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 $10,000 from sources and in amounts permitted by Article 22A and may expend up to $10,000 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) and possible matching funds. With named exception, 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 receives from the Fund pursuant to GS 163-278.125(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 and possible matching funds. (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 163-258 (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. 

Requires that when any report shows that "funds in opposition to a certified candidate or in support of an opponent to that candidate" exceed the trigger for matching funds, the Board must immediately issue to that certified candidate an additional amount that equals the reported excess within the specified limits. Sets out additional provisions concerning the limit on matching funds before a primary and in contested general elections, and expediting matching funds. Requires the Board to determine which candidate, if any, is entitled to matching funds in the case of electioneering communications. 

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.

Amends GS 84-34 by requiring active members of the North Carolina State Bar to pay a $50 surcharge for the Fund.

Makes conforming changes to GS 105-159.2, GS 163-278.5, and SL 2013-381, Section 38.1(a).

Amends GS 163-278.13, concerning limitations on campaign contributions, by adding limitations on contributions to Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidates of $1,000 from an individual contributor and $2,000 from family contributors. 

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

Unless otherwise indicated, effective January 1, 2024.

Part IV. 

Contains a severability clause.