Our Blog

Ethics and Elections Amendment Letter to Editor 9-9-18

Ethics and Elections Amendment

Diane Lemieux


To say that we are struggling with elections today would be a gross understatement.  From foreign interference to hacking and voting laws, elections have become a quagmire.  We would like to think that elections are wrapped in ethics and honesty, but we are seeing daily evidence to the contrary.

In what has been described as a power grab, the legislature leadership has written a constitutional amendment regarding ethics and elections that strips power from the Governor’s office and transfers it to the Legislature.  This clearly violates the separation of powers called for in our constitution.

The Ethics and Elections Amendment (or the Undermine Separation of Powers Amendment) will read like this:


Constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority.

On the surface, this language sounds entirely reasonable.  And that is the problem. It sounds reasonable without clearly state the intent of the amendment. In order to fully understand this amendment, one must look for what is missing: what is not included (and its effects) and what the voter will not see in the voting booth.

Jackson, NC Senator, says, “In short, historically the governor has had appointment authority over these boards. The General Assembly would prefer that it have appointment authority.” The new board would have 4 Republicans and 4 Democrats. Currently, the Ethics and Elections Board has 9 members, 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 1 Independent. Independents compromise the second largest voting block in NC, and will be left with no say at all if this amendment passes.  If tie votes are broken by the legislature, that could result in unfair changes or challenges to voting laws.

Martin Warf, an attorney for legislative leaders, asked, “Who’s to say what’s misleading? Where is it that there is a standard to apply to the language on the ballot as to whether it accurately represents what’s going on or not?” Warf stands behind his actions, claiming that the constitution gives the General Assembly the authority to put proposed amendments to a public vote. Yes, it does, but it sounds like he is trying to excuse devious behavior. State law requires the state elections board “present all questions in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner.” Chair of the elections board, Solicitor General Matt Sawchak, said the ballot questions failed to meet that standard and that they “will be made a perpetrator of a constitutional violation.”

The originally tasked commission must still write detailed explanations for each amendment that won’t be shown on the ballot but will be available at each county board of elections for anyone who asks, but who is doing that voter education?

It actually sounds like it will “clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches”, when in fact, it gives the legislature all of the power to appoint regulators, members to nearly 400 boards and other officials.  Clarification is not needed at all.  The appointment authority is clearly spelled out in the constitution already. Historically, the governor has held the authority to make these appointments, but the legislature is hoping to change that.

Another part of the amendment that voters will not see deals with separation of powers, with the proposed language underlined.

“Sec. 6.  Separation of powers.

(1) The legislative, executive, and supreme judicial powers of the State government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other.

(2) The legislative powers of the State government shall control the powers, duties,

 responsibilities, appointments, and terms of office of any board or commission prescribed by general law.

Isn’t it ironic that it first states that the three branches of government “shall be forever separate and distinct”, and then follows that with language that takes away power from the executive branch and transfers it to the legislature?

Someone must have skipped over the part of the constitution that Constitution requires the Governor to faithfully execute the laws. Without the ability to appoint people to boards, commissions and other offices, that would be hard to do.  Giving that power to the legislature enables them to make the laws and then appoint people to carry them out.  This is clearly a violation of separation of powers. In 2014, the legislature attempted a similar power grab and the NC Supreme Court struck down the law, declaring that the law violated the separation of powers principle in our Constitution. If they can’t legislate it, they are trying to put it in the constitution.

Perhaps that’s why this amendment is the target of several lawsuits, currently working their way through the court.  Governor Cooper, NAACP, and Clean Air Carolina have all filed suits to remove this amendment from the ballot. A three judge panel has delayed the printing of the ballots while they deliberate later this week. Bill D’Elia, an Eden Republican and spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, called the lawsuits “absurd”.

One high-ranking Republican, Rep. Chuck McGrady, voted against the amendment over concern for this section, stating, “I think we’ve gone too far. At some point in time, we may not be in the majority.” NC Attorney General, Josh Stein, referred to this as “the most radical restructuring of our government in more than 100 years, since the Civil War. It would essentially give the Legislature the power to run the executive branch.”

The NC Democratic Party says, “This amendment would fundamentally alter the balance of power in state government, giving the legislature exclusive control over how you can vote, the cost of your energy bill, and the quality of your drinking water. This dangerous measure would essentially rewrite the constitution to exclude all North Carolinians but a few politicians from making decisions about what is in the best interest of the state.”


  • The constitution gives the General Assembly the authority to put proposed amendments to a public vote.
  • Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger‘s new spokesman, Pat Ryan reflects on former governors: “Given the ethics scandals coming from some of these administrations, it’s not shocking they’re rallying against a bipartisan ethics board. We trust the voters to decide how best to protect the integrity of the political process.”
  • WRAL reports, “Republican leadership in the General Assembly has repeatedly noted that North Carolina has always vested most of the government’s power in the state legislature, and they describe the boards and commissions amendment as a clarifying one.”


  • Ballot language voters will see is misleading.
  • State board of elections eliminates Independent member
  • Transfers executive powers to legislature
  • Violates separation of powers
  • Charlotte Observer reports that all five of North Carolina’s living former governors
  • Governors Pat McCrory, Bev Perdue, Mike Easley Jim Martin and Jim Hunt rebuked the legislature for this power grab, saying that it would, “shred gubernatorial power and government checks and balances.”

Knowing the facts is essential to democracy.  Arm yourself with them and vote.













Pamlico Progressives Meeting Tuesday March 20, 2018

Pamlico County Courthouse, Bayboro


  1. Update on the series of forums:

                        3/26/17 Opioid Epidemic

                        4/23/18 Voting Forum

  1. Calendar update: Here is the calendar link.
  2. March 3/20

    Pamlico Progressives Meeting

    5 pm

    Pamlico County Courthouse – Bayboro


    Pamlico County Courthouse – Bayboro

    9:30 am

    Poster Making for the

    10 am March for Life Rally

    12:30 pm light lunch before the

    1:30 pm Democratic Convention


    Series on World Religion

    3-5 pm

    Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of New Bern


    Opiod Epidemic Video/Discussion/Forum

    6 pm

    Oriental Town Hall

    April 4/10

    Board of Education Candidates Forum

    6 pm

    Pamlico County Courthouse – Bayboro



    Pamlico Progressives Meeting

    5 pm

    Pamlico County Courthouse – Bayboro


    Voting Issues Forum

    6 pm

    Oriental Town Hall

    May 5/8

    Voting for Board of Education and November Primary races


    Pamlico Progressives


    5 pm

    Pamlico County

    Courthouse – Bayboro




  1. Opiod Epidemic Film and Discussion- we will be showing the film “The Epidemic” and then have a discussion about what is happening and how we can          help. Please invite friends interested in this topic that has touched us locally.
  2. Voting Forum – We will discuss what to present at this forum. There is much work for Get-Out-The-Vote being done by the Democratic Party. How can we                     support this effort?
  3. Raleigh – March For Our Lives – If you or someone you know isn’t coming to the Pamlico County Democratic Convention, here’s another action you can take.           There are people going to Raleigh for the March. This link has more information.                      https://marchforourlives.com
  4. 6. Pamlico County – March For Our Lives – this event will happen in the morning before the PC Democratic Convention as a rally joining with millions of young                        people, and all the others who will be marching in Washington DC,                                          Raleigh and around the country.
  5. 7. Pamlico County Democratic Convention – A light lunch starts at 12:30, Convention at 1:30. Hear keynote Speaker Tess Judge, Candidate for NC House           District 6, our new House District. Meet Ginger Garner and Dorothea White, the         Democrats in the May 8th Primary for NC Senate District 2 and other local                   Please Note: There are 4000 registered Democrats in Pamlico County. Most registered Democrats in the County are not on the Democratic  Party email list. Your help is needed to spread the word about the Convention. Please share this information with your friends and family, including Independents. Everyone is welcome.
  6. Resolution to be voted on at the Pamlico County Democratic Convention – Two resolutions were written by Bill Brennan and Kathryn Garcia. Those two                have been combined into one. It calls for the National Democratic Party to                  implement changes to DNC rules that were suggested by the Unity Reform  Commission and to bring more Progressives into positions of leadership. If you  are a delegate to the county convention you can vote for or against its adoption.             If adopted it would move to the District level and then State and National.
  7. Board of Education Candidate Forum – At the follow-up meeting to the first Education Forum, it was decided that the Pamlico Progressives could continue  to facilitate continuing interest by hosting this forum. People have been sending  questions to Diane Lemieux. She and Dan Bartley will be compiling a list of questions for the candidates. Please bring your ideas about how we can make  this a dynamic forum for the community.
  8. Web site in the process of being built – John Phillips is building the Pam Progs web site. Please share what you would like to see on our site.
  9. Series on World Religions: On Sunday, March 25 Marsha Luhrs will be a  speaker in this series hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of New  Bern (UUFNB). Attached below is more information.
  10. Visit our Pam Prog Facebook page and like us.


Pamlico Progressives Meeting Tuesday, September 19, 2017


1. There were 17 people at our meeting. People shared what they had been doing politically and it was quite impressive. Many calls had been made; some members attended the public sessions on Gerrymandering; there were meetings with Representatives; and letters written to the Editor. Bill Hines is working on a Resolution to present to the Oriental Town Board about offshore drilling and exploration off the Atlantic Coast. Diane Lemieux is writing for the County Compass about Net Neutrality and how the laws impact our internet information. Enrique and Kathryn Garcia are working with immigrant issues. Laurie Stockwell will be going to the Citizen’s Climate Lobby in D.C. this November. Iris Hudson was not at the meeting but has been writing emails to Tom Tillis about the Russia investigation and to the Democratic Party about their constant requests for money and their lack of response to what people want from their government. These are only some of the things people have been doing.

2. Local elections this November 7th. Each town will be voting for their Town Council Officials. More information later about who the municipal candidates are. If you live in the town limits of one of the 8 county municipalities, mark your calendars so that you do not forget to vote.

The next mid-term elections are on November 6, 2018. In Pamlico County we will be voting for County Commissioners, State Senator and more. That is only 14 months away. We need to recruit candidates for our county positions and educate ourselves on the issues before these elections.

3. We discussed having forums/information sessions as ways to educate and discuss issues that impact Pamlico County. The following is a list of the topics and the people who have volunteered to develop and present the sessions.

– People’s Supper is a pot luck dinner party for people to share stories and come together and to build our community and our ability to have civil conversations, to find what unites us. It is being planned for October by Kathryn Garcia.

– Screening and discussion of the video “Democracy for Sale”. This might become a series of videos. It is being planned for November by Diane Lemieux and Pat Stockwell.

– Coastal Issues facing Pamlico County. This is being planned for late November or early December by Bill Hines, Katy Pugh and Riane Moser.

– Education in Pamlico County. This is being planned for January by Diane Lemieux.

As you can see there are many ways to address issues that are important to you. Please contact me or the people involved to participate in these forums/information sessions/dinners.

Important Dates:

September 30 at 6pm at PCC: the Pamlico County NAACP is having their Annual Freedom Banquet. Tickets on sale at the Inland Waterway Provision Company and at The Daily Bread bookstore.

October 4 at 10 am in the Commissioners’ Room in the Courthouse: meeting of the Recycling Committee. This committee was appointed by the Pamlico County Board of Commissioners to study recycling options and make recommendations to the Board. Committee meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is Wednesday October 4.

October 17 at 5pm downstairs in the kitchen at the Pamlico County Courthouse the Pamlico Progressives have their next monthly meeting. We had wanted the fourth Tuesday of every month, but that room is reserved at that time. I hope the third Tuesdays of the month will work. 

November 7 Local elections: Each town will be voting for their Town Council Officials.

Thank you for continuing this work. Please contact me by responding to this email or calling me at 252-649-5409.

Kathryn Garcia

P.S. The Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill didn’t pass. Thanks to all those who have called, marched and made their voices heard! Our work does matter!

2017 Working Circle Issues


Suggested Issues for working circles with possible sub-issues

April 2017

  • Education
    • o Support public education
    • o Engage with Pamlico Community College
    • o Know issues coming up at local School Board
  • Health Care
    • o ACA / Medicaid expansion
    • o Pharmaceuticals/Substance abuse
    • o Women’s Health
  • Economic Development
    • o Minority owned small business
    • o Access to capital
  • Voting
    • o Voter rights / voter suppression
    • o Gerrymandering
  • Social Justice
    • o Immigration
    • o LGBT
  • Environment
    • o EPA / Climate Change / River & water quality
    • o Fracking & coal / Pipelines
    • o Recycling and solid waste disposal
  • Income Inequality
    • o #28 – end Citizens United
    • o Corporate takeovers / ALEC / CEO Pay
    • o Unions vs right to work
  • Energy
    • o Wind Power
    • o Solar Power
  • Science
    • o Data / statistics
    • o Census
    • o Disregard of scientific facts in making policy
  • Independent Investigations
    • o Russia
    • o Taxes
    • o Transparency


Continue with 2 existing circles

Community Outreach – Create local events to engage with the diversity of our county

Electronic Communications – Facilitate information sharing for Pamlico Progressives


Our Story

One night, shortly after the Women’s March in D.C. on January 21, 2017, four women and one man (Kathryn Garcia, Jayne Stasser, and John Bloom) sat around the dinner table and discussed what the next step would be in keeping the momentum going of resisting Trump’s agenda for America. And so, Pamlico Progressives was conceived.

A meeting was held and people showed up and signed up and at the next meeting even more people showed up and by the third one we had to move to the main courtroom to accommodate everyone. How encouraging!