House votes to uphold Bill of Rights

Posted June 20, 2016

NC Flag, Legislative Building, Raleigh

— State House lawmakers voted Monday in favor of a resolution pledging to uphold the U.S. Bill of Rights, though some questioned the need for such a resolution.

Sponsor Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said he was asked by a constituent to advance the proposal.

"I've heard from a lot of folks from across the state for some time – statements of concern that our government is in the nation and somewhat in the state. Our government seems to be forgetting the meaning of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights," Pittman said. "Whether you think those concerns are valid or not, there are a lot of citizens in this state and across the nation who are concerned."

Pittman noted that the resolution highlights the historical role that North Carolina's Declaration of Rights played in the drafting of the of the Bill of Rights, as well as the refusal of North Carolina leaders to sign the Constitution without also signing the Bill of Rights.

"We were very cautious about putting too much power in the hands of too few people," he said. "The people of North Carolina at that time wanted to make sure that we would not have a tyrannical central government. The Bill of Rights was put there to be a protection for people’s rights."

"On occasion, we as a free people need to refresh the tree of liberty," added co-sponsor Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven. "Sometimes, it’s as simple as an affirmation of our beliefs in the rights that we have.

"Many people think we’re losing our freedoms, and we are. We are losing freedom by the day. It’s our responsibility to protect those freedoms for the citizens that sent us up here," Speciale said. "We all are not going to agree on everything. We understand that. But the bottom line is, everyone of us should believe in liberty and should believe that we are here – one of our primary responsibilities is – to preserve it."

While most Democrats voted for the measure, some expressed skepticism about the need for it.

Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said he'd sworn at least 22 times over the course of his career as a lawmaker and a U.S. attorney to uphold the U.S. and state constitutions. "I don't have to do it anymore."

Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, pointed out that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals meets Tuesday "to talk about whether or not a piece of legislation that we passed here dealing with voter IDs impinges on those constitutional rights that we are about to vote to revere and support and wave the flag on."

Alexander also pointed out that the state constitution still includes the requirement that voters pass a literacy test.

"We all know where that came from, and we all know that it’s not legal, but yet we continue to have it printed," he argued. "I’m hoping that everybody who votes for this resolution this evening will join with me at some point to clean up our constitution and throw out some of these anachronistic clauses."

The resolution passed 96-3 and now goes to the Senate.


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