UPDATE AS OF 4 PM EST: It’s official: North Carolina GOP Gov. Pat McCrory has signed legislation stripping power from the governor’s office before his successor, Democrat Roy Cooper, takes office next year.
North Carolina Republicans who control the General Assembly called a surprise special session to present bills designed to strip power from the newly progressive governor and state Supreme Court amid heated ideological battles in the state.
Initially, the Republican majority came back to the General Assembly to mull over measures regarding disaster recovery and dealing with victims of hurricane flooding and wildfires in the western part of the state. Their call for another special session surprised Democratic lawmakers––it was then that they introduced bills to end the governor’s control over election boards, to require State Senate approval of the new governor’s cabinet members, and to remove his power to appoint University of North Carolina trustees. Republicans also proposed a measure which would substantially reduce the number of state employees who serve at the governor’s leisure. According to Jeff Tiberii, a political reporter with WNYC, there are 1,500 positions within the administration; the proposal would cut that number to a mere 300.
Should these measures pass, they would significantly roll back judicial independence, weaken environmental standards, sap public education, preserve illicit voter suppression laws, and significantly cripple the state’s incoming governor, Roy Cooper, who takes office next month.
Lawmakers barred the public from witnessing the session yesterday after the Assembly decided to close the House and Senate galleries, arrest protesters, and detain Joe Killian, a reporter with North Carolina Policy Watch.
The current governor, Pat McCrory, officially conceded last week after a heated governor’s race and a monthlong challenge of the vote (there was no evidence to substantiate allegations of voter fraud across the state). Republicans held on to supermajorities in both chambers, however, and Democratic leaders have accused Republicans of trying to undo the election results.
“This is an unprecedented, shameful and cowardly power grab from the Republicans,’’ said Jamal Little, a spokesman for the state’s Democratic Party. “After losing the governor’s office, the G.O.P.-controlled General Assembly is attempting to hold on to power that voters took away from them.”
Governor-elect Roy Cooper also rebuked the GOP’s actions, and in a public address, said that their “partisan power grab is more ominous… I have offered to work with the Republican leadership, and I’m even ready to negotiate compromises if I think the result will make life a little bit better for everyday North Carolinians… Instead, what’s happening now, they look like partisan political games, but the result could hurt North Carolinians.”