(Raleigh & Observer) The legislature is considering revamping the way North Carolina selects its high-court judges this session, including possibly scrapping the state’s pioneering system of public financing and moving to partisan elections.
The efforts come as Republicans – in complete control in Raleigh for the first time since the 1800s – seek to put their stamp on the judiciary.
On the agenda is undoing a Democratic-passed program that made North Carolina the nation’s first state to begin a voluntary program of public financing. The law was enacted after other states began experiencing high-priced political shoot-outs between big business and trial lawyers in its court elections.
Since its adoption in 2002, New Mexico, Wisconsin and, earlier this year, West Virginia have adopted legislation based on North Carolina’s law.
But Republican Gov. Pat McCrory proposed abolishing the program in his budget recommendations to the legislature. There is considerable sentiment among GOP lawmakers for following suit, although on Wednesday Rep. David Lewis of Dunn suggested an alternative measure designed to keep public financing through 2016.
“Judicial candidates benefit from not relying so heavily on fundraising,” said Lewis, who is chairman of the House Elections Committee, which will consider the bill next week. He acknowledged his proposal “has a long way to go.”
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