Craven representative introduces four bills

To leave the secession option open or not to?

State Rep. Mike Speciale, R-New Bern, believes it’s time to make some changes in the state Constitution and has offered four bills to that end, most of them striking words or phrases that were first written in as long ago as 1868.

The bills are variously cosponsored by both Republicans and Democrats.

The bill that has gotten the most press attention would remove a provision prohibiting secession from the Union. But some of the others, if passed, would have more effect in daily lives in the Tarheel State.

If passed by legislators and voters, the other three would:

• Repeal a requirement for voters to be able to read.

• Remove the required allegiance of N.C. citizens to the U.S. government.

• Eliminate the requirement of having a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

“What I’m doing here is trying to clean up stuff,” Speciale said. “After four years (that) I’ve been up here, people have said, ‘Hey, can you do this? Can you do that?’ This is one of those.”

He said he’s received both positive comments and criticism on the bills.

“Why did I do this when there’s so many other things?” he said, repeating one of his most frequent criticisms, “Well, I’m doing other things. I’m doing 18 other bills.”

In a telephone interview, Speciale spoke on each issue bill he has offered.

Secession

The state’s Constitution Article 1, Section 4, reads, “The State shall ever remain a member of the American Union … there is no right on the part of the State to secede; and all attempts from whatever source or upon whatever pretext, to dissolve this Union or to sever this Nation, shall be resisted with the whole power of the State.”

Speciale’s bill would remove this section, but he says he does not look on the bill as a “secession bill.”

“This is going to give the people in North Carolina the opportunity, for the first time, to vote on it as a single issue,” he said.

He said this article was added during Reconstruction in 1868 as a condition for North Carolina to re-enter the Union, with citizens having no real say on the issue if they wanted Reconstruction to end.

“The Constitution should be of, for, and by the people of North Carolina, and that (article) is not,” Speciale said.

“The timing isn’t the best,” he said. “We hear a lot about California wanting to secede, but we aren’t wanting to do that.”

California is considering a secession vote in the 2019 elections, a movement referred to as “CalExit.”

“The bill means absolutely nothing other than it will no longer be in the Constitution,” he said.

His co-sponsors on the bill are Reps. George Cleveland, R-Jacksonville, and Larry Pittman, R-Concord.

Literacy requirement

Article 6, Section 4 currently reads, “Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language.”

Although a part of the Constitution, this is a law that has not been followed for some time.

“This is something that can’t be enforced,” Speciale said of this section requiring literacy by voters. “This was a Jim Crow attempt to keep blacks from voting. It’s an embarrassment that it’s even in there.”

Speciale’s backers on the bill include Pittman and Bob Steinberg, R-Elizabeth City, but Democrat William Richardson of Fayetteville is also a co-sponsor.

Conceal carry

Article 1, Section 30, on the militia and the right to bear arms, reads in part, “Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice.”

Speciale’s bill would remove this sentence.

This is the bill that would have the most noticeable affect on daily life in the state, as it would open the door to dropping the requirement to need a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Speciale said the assembly is preparing a bill – HB 69, “An Act to Make It Lawful to Carry a Concealed Handgun in North Carolina Without a Concealed Handgun Permit.”

Twelve states already have this law, known as constitutional carry: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Three other states – Montana, New Mexico and Oklahoma – have a limited form of the law.

Speciale said a permit could still be purchased for the purpose of proving a person’s right to conceal when in other states that have reciprocal concealed carry laws.

There would be exceptions to the concealed carry, such as felons.

“You can already carry a gun on your hip, in a holster,” Speciale said, “or laying in view on your car seat. But if your shirt tail falls over that gun or a piece of paper falls over it in the car, you’re suddenly in violation of the law.”

As to arguments that people who are untrained in the use of weapons will conceal carry them, he said, “It’s just a common sense thing. People are not going to buy a gun without going out and practicing with it and learning how to use it.”

He said there would always be the few who will not be trained, but many of those would carry the gun hidden on them anyway. “That’s going to happen. You can’t do anything about that.”

Co-spnosors are Pittman and Jay Adams of Hickory, both Republicans.

Allegiance to the Constitution

Article 1, Section 5 currently reads in part, “Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the Untied States.”

Speciale’s bill would remove the word “government.”

“I believe this is another Reconstruction bill,” Speciale said.

“Our all should be to the Constitution and country,” Speciale said, but “we don’t have paramount allegiance to any government. … If our government is not following the Constitution, our allegiance should not be to them.”

He drew an example — “this isn’t why I’m doing it, but it’s an example” — to the Obama administration where “there were a lot of things over the last eight years where a lot of departments ignored the rule of law. The rule of law is how we survive, but when it becomes a rule of men, we have a problem.”

At least a few Democrats agree, drawing on their ire with President Donald Trump instead of Obama.

Co-sponsors are Pittman and Republican Rep. Michelle Persnell of Burnsville.

No sure thing

“I welcome any questions at any time from anybody,” he said.

He added that his filing of the bills do not necessarily mean they’ll become part of the Constitution. “Heck, it might not even make it through the legislative cycle to make it to the ballot,” he said.

According to Article 13, a constitutional amendment must be approved by three-fifths of all members of both houses.

To place any amendment on the ballot requires 60 percent approval vote of all the members of each house.

Once passed, it is then offered for ratification by the voters of the state — in this case, in the 2018 November election. “If a majority of the votes cast thereon are in favor of the proposed new or revised Constitution or constitutional amendment or amendments,” Article 13, Section 4 reads, “they shall become effective January first next after ratification by the voters.”

Asked about his timing in filing his bills, Speciale said it was simply a matter that he felt it needed to be done.

“It’s a promise that I made when I campaigned,” he said, “and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here.”

Contact Bill Hand at bill.hand@newbernsj.com, 252-635-5677, and follow him @BillHandNBSJ.