• 37°

Patrick Gannon: With Ford, majority doesn’t always rule on voice votes

State Rep. Carl Ford

Carl Ford

Carl Ford

With Ford, majority doesn’t always rule on voice vote 

RALEIGH – Most committee votes in the General Assembly are done by voice vote.

The committee chairman calls for “ayes,” then “noes” on a particular piece of legislation or an amendment to a bill. The side with the loudest response typically prevails.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? It usually is. Most committee votes are fairly lopsided, so it’s easy to determine which side is in the majority.

But that’s not always the case. At least a few times every legislative session, a committee chairman makes a call on a voice vote that baffles observers. That happened last week.

A state House committee debated a bill – sponsored by Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican – to eliminate the protest petition from state law, which would give residents less of a voice in proposed developments adjacent to their properties. Under current law, if enough owners of properties bordering a proposed rezoning sign a protest petition, it requires a three-fourths vote of a city council to approve the zoning change. Opponents of protest petitions say they give neighbors too much sway over what property owners can do with their land. Both sides have solid arguments.

In the committee, Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat, proposed what he considered a “compromise amendment.” Instead of eliminating the protest petition process, which has been part of law for nearly a century, the amendment would have required a greater percentage of neighboring property owners to get a protest petition and then require a two-thirds, rather than three-fourths, vote of council to approve a zoning change.

In opposing the amendment, Stam said there should be a “really, really good reason to require something other than a majority vote” in a democracy. He mentioned constitutional amendments, for example, because they affect people’s fundamental rights.

Then came the voice vote on Luebke’s amendment. It was clear to me and others seated around me that the “aye” votes were louder and came from more legislators than the “noes.” I’ve listened to a recording. It’s clear.

But Rep. Carl Ford, a China Grove Republican and the committee chairman, ruled that the amendment failed. Luebke disagreed and asked for a show of hands, but Ford wouldn’t allow it.

Asked after the vote, Ford said he heard an “almost equal sound” from either side. “It’s at the discretion of the chair because of what I heard in the discussion,” he added. He also said Luebke can propose the same amendment when the bill gets to the House floor.

In other words, a committee chairman ruled against a clear majority on a controversial bill that, if ultimately passed, would take rights away from people trying to protect their land from developments that could harm their property values or the quality of life in their neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, the bill sponsor argued that it is against the definition of democracy to require three-fourths votes of city councils on controversial rezonings or just about anything else.

But apparently it’s OK to overrule a majority to make that happen. Where’s the democracy in that?

Patrick Gannon writes for Capitol Press Association.

 

Comments

Local

Board of elections discusses upgrading voting machines, making precinct changes

News

Lawmakers finalize how state will spend COVID-19 funds

Local

Salisbury Station one of several ‘hot spots’ included in NCDOT rail safety study

Education

Essie Mae Kiser Foxx appeal denied, school considering options

News

Iredell County votes to move Confederate memorial to cemetery

Nation/World

Lara Trump may have eyes on running for a Senate seat

Local

Rowan among counties in Biden’s disaster declaration from November floods

Local

PETA plans protest at Salisbury Police Department on Friday

Education

Essie Mae Kiser Foxx appeal denied, charter revoked

Coronavirus

29 new positives, no new COVID-19 deaths reported

Crime

Blotter: Woman charged with drug crimes

News

Nesting no more: Eagles appear to have moved on from Duke’s Buck Station

Business

The Smoke Pit leaving downtown Salisbury for standalone building on Faith Road

Education

Shoutouts

High School

High school football: Hornets’ Gaither set the tone against West

Local

Salisbury to show off new fire station

Education

Livingstone College to host virtual Big Read events this month

Local

City makes some appointments to local boards, holds off on others to seek women, appointees of color

Education

Education briefs: RCCC instructor honored by Occupational Therapy Association

Local

Second quarter financial update shows promising outlook for city’s budget

Columnists

Genia Woods: Let’s talk about good news in Salisbury

Local

City attorney will gather more information for Salisbury nondiscrimination ordinance

Education

North Hills planning to hold May fundraiser in person

East Spencer

Developers aim to transform former Dunbar School site into multi-purpose community development