House: Marshall impeachment probe will have to wait

Posted June 29
Updated June 30

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall

— A formal House inquiry into Secretary of State Elaine Marshall's office's designation of notaries public won't come to the chamber floor Thursday, placing the formal proceedings that many Republican members endorsed earlier this week on hold.

The issue isn't going away, though. Under the adjournment resolution that the legislature's Republican majority drafted and the General Assembly finalized around 2 a.m. Friday morning, members will be back in Raleigh several times later this year.

That adjournment resolution specifically notes that legislation that will determine whether the House begins a formal investigation of whether Marshall should be impeached remains live for those future meetings. House Democrats voted against the usually perfunctory adjournment resolution in protest, with Minority Leader Darren Jackson calling the the issue "an act of extraordinary political aggression."

"This resolution does not represent what I normal in our body, we should not accept this as the new normal.

"I see in these resolutions what we see in Washington, D.C., all the time - the normalization of extreme political behavior," said Jackson, D-Wake. "We should not accept this as the new normal."
Rep. Chris Millis, R-Pender, who pushed for the resolution, said there wasn't enough time to bring it to the full chamber for a vote this week.

"We don't want to encroach on the ability to be diligent," said Millis.

The House Rules Committee backed the idea earlier this week, though, on a strict party line vote. Democrats called the proceedings a witch hunt targeting one of the few state offices Republicans haven't been able to capture since rising to power in 2010. Many wore lapel stickers Thursday that said "I stand with Elaine."

Marshall has denied any wrongdoing, saying she designates notaries public in accordance with the law. Millis has accused her of bestowing the title on hundreds of people who don't legally reside in North Carolina.

The legislature is expected to leave town after Friday, returning in August. In the mean time, Millis said, he would "keep doing what I've been doing, which is presenting the evidence."

"We need to be diligent," he said. "The process is still going forward. ... We want to be diligent."

If an investigation opens, a House committee would be appointed to carry it out. Then it would be up to the House whether to move the issue to the Senate, which would essentially sit as jury in the case. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger declined to comment on that possibility this week, saying it's up to the House to decide how to proceed.

"Since I've been here, we've not done that, so I'm going to have to get briefed on what the procedure is," said Berger, R-Rockingham. "I just want to make sure that I and our members are very cautious about any comment about that because we are to sit as a trial court if the bill of impeachment makes it out of the House."


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