If North Carolina Republicans had a motto, it’d be: “If you can’t beat them, change the rules until you win.”
Following the defeat of incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory (R), Republicans, who still hold a supermajority in the state’s General Assembly, have convened a special session — under auspices of dealing with hurricane relief — to make several changes that essentially reduce incoming Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to a figurehead by stripping him of many facets of his constitutionally-delegated power.
Specifically, Republican lawmakers have introduced bills to require the governor’s cabinet to be confirmed by the state Senate, limit the number of members that the governor can appoint to the board of trustees at the University of North Carolina school system and the state board of Education, reducing the number of positions who work directly for the governor from 1,500 to 300, and alter the political makeup of the Board of Elections to favor Republicans.
Other bills introduced by Republicans include measures to make state Supreme Court elections partisan, and require all appeals cases to go through the full court of appeals, which is controlled by Republicans, reports The Washington Post.
The fate of these bills, which are almost certain to pass the legislature, will now be left up to McCrory, the very man rejected by voters in this past election. Much of McCrory’s defeat is attributed to the economic consequences that befell the state after McCrory and Republicans pushed through the anti-LGBT HB 2 law. That law, which restricts transgender people’s access to public restrooms and eliminates legal protections for LGBT people, prompted many artists to boycott the state and the NCAA, the Atlantic Conference Championships, and the NBA to seek out other cities and states in which to host major sporting events.
The last-minute way in which these bills were introduced is reminiscent of the way that Republicans jammed through HB 2 — in a special session, without much debate. But Republicans insist it’s within their right to make such “reforms,” which they claim were long overdue. House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis (R-Dunn) said the legislature was simply looking to “reassert its constitutional authority in areas that may have been previously delegated to the executive branch.”
North Carolina Democratic Party spokesman Jamal Little didn’t hold back in blasting this partisan move.
“This is an unprecedented, shameful and cowardly power grab from Republicans. After losing the Governor’s office, the GOP-controlled General Assembly is attempting to hold on to the power that voters took away from them,” Little said. “Make no mistake, the legislation we are seeing today are attempts from Republicans to usurp power from Governor-elect Roy Cooper after losing the election. Republicans should be ashamed of these unprecedented power grabs that have no place in our democracy.”
McCrory thus far has not weighed in on the legislation. But even if he were to veto it, it’s possible that the legislature could just override his veto, as it did when it passed SB 2, another anti-LGBT measure that allows magistrates to claim a religious exemption to avoid solemnizing same-sex marriages.
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