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Supreme Court decision affecting N.C. elections law

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RALEIGH – A Supreme Court decision earlier this year is complicating North Carolina's campaign finance laws. The nonprofit group Citizens United argued that federal election laws stifled its first amendment rights. The court agreed, and now state laws need to change.

“This is a conservative approach,” Rep. Deborah Ross said. “We are trying to get rid of the parts of our law that are clearly unconstitutional but also follow what the Supreme Court has said.”

In the Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, the majority opinion said current federal law asks for First Amendment rights to be censored through everything from television to posters.

In his concurring opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “The First Amendment protects more than just the individual on a soapbox and the lonely pamphleteer.”

The court says that means corporations, labor unions and others can now make political ads if they want. That decision is contrary to what current North Carolina law says.

“The old law we had, if you you notice, half of the bill was repealing the old law because it is no longer constitutional, so you've got to come up with something else,” Sen. Martin Nesbitt said.

A bill is being built in a Senate judicial committee which would bring state law in line with this ruling. The bill is working to make sure disclosures on the ads are as informative as possible.

“It's not that anybody wants to not let them have their say,” Nesbitt said. “It's just simply that people need to know who it is that is having their say.”

The Senate Judicial Committee is expected to vote on the bill this week and then send it to the House for concurrence before lawmakers head home for the year.

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