Senate Bill 288
Posted: 1 month ago
The City of Morganton, and the Towns of Connelly Springs, Drexel, Glen Alpine, Hildebran and Valdese will hold a joint press conference in the City Council Chambers at Morganton City Hall on Thursday, March 18, at 10 a.m., to express their adamant opposition to Senate Bill 288. Representatives from Rutherford College cannot attend the press conference, but also oppose Senate Bill 288.
Senate Bill 288 is sponsored by Sen. Warren Daniel of Burke County, and would change when local elections are held for nearly every municipality in Burke County. None of the elected officials or senior managers in the municipalities this bill would affect were notified or consulted before this bill was introduced. This bill is strongly opposed by every municipality and governing board that would suffer its consequences.
Senate Bill 288 would move local municipal elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years for the Burke County Board of Education, the City Council of the City of Morganton, and the Town Councils of the Towns of Connelly Springs, Drexel, Glen Alpine, Hildebran, Rutherford College and Valdese. For no discernable reason, the changes proposed by this bill would not affect the Towns of Longview and Rhodhiss.
Senate Bill 288 also extends the terms of some elected officials currently serving on these boards from four to five years. This move would mean these elected officials would have their terms involuntarily extended by the state legislature, against the wishes of citizens who voted for these representatives to serve four year terms. Arbitrarily changing the length of an elected official’s term strips the power of the individual vote away from Burke County citizens, who did not cast a vote for local representatives to serve for longer than four years.
None of the affected local governments were notified or consulted about Senate Bill 288 before it was introduced, even though the bill would make significant changes to the charters of each town it affects. Sen. Daniel introduced Senate Bill 288 as a local bill, which means it is not subject to the Governor’s veto. The Bill was introduced without the approval or desire of the local governments it affects.
The local governments of Burke County learned of the changes proposed by Senate Bill 288 from lobbyists working at the legislature, not from Sen. Daniel. Sen. Daniel also represents Avery and Caldwell counties, but Senate Bill 288 would only impact Burke County elections. As far as we know, no similar bill has been introduced affecting any other county in North Carolina. Local elected officials from communities affected by this bill have reached out to Senator Daniel but have had no response.
Changing local municipal elections to even-numbered years would mean they are held during the same years as general elections for president, governor, U.S. Congress and the like. This would cause local elections to become lost in the flood of partisan State and Federal election contests, taking citizens’ attention away from local elections. Local governments best reflect the communities they serve when citizens are able to be active in the process. Citizens can also effect the most change in their communities by participating in local elections. Moving local elections to the same year as partisan State and Federal elections would prevent citizens from paying close attention to municipal races, thereby negatively affecting citizen participation in local government.
This bill would also make it much more costly for candidates to run for local government seats, as advertising costs are significantly higher during general election years due to much greater demand that is generated by well-funded candidates running for State and Federal offices.
More than one-third of all voters in Burke County are registered as “Unaffiliated,” and are much less likely to be interested in the partisan races that dominate even-numbered election years.
These local governments already find it difficult to attract qualified and capable individuals willing to seek local office. All local governments are deeply concerned that moving their elections to even-numbered years will further discourage many active and interested citizens from running for local office.
A local bill significantly changing municipal elections should not be adopted without the support of the local governments it affects. The governing boards of these cities and towns agree that their local elections should remain in odd-numbered years, and that the terms of the elected officials currently serving should remain at those to which they were all elected.
Therefore, the City of Morganton, Towns of Connelly Springs, Drexel, Glen Alpine, Hildebran, Rutherford College and Valdese adamantly oppose Senate Bill 288, as it takes power away from the citizens, causes local elections to become lost in the shuffle of State and Federal races held in even-numbered years, and goes directly against the wishes of these local governments representing the citizens of Burke County.