Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has signed one of the two pieces of legislation state lawmakers have proposed that would dramatically curb the power of the incoming Democratic governor, the speaker of the state House told local reporters on Friday afternoon.
The other major bill that would weaken the governorship has been passed by the state House and state Senate and now goes back to the House for final approval after the Senate made changes.
— Craig Jarvis (@CraigJ_NandO) December 16, 2016
— Jeff Tiberii (@j_tibs) December 16, 2016
The bill signed by McCrory, which originated in the state Senate, would change the make-up of the state elections board and prevent Democrats from taking over the state and county elections boards when Democrat Roy Cooper takes office.
Under the current system, the state elections board is comprised of three members from the governor’s party and two from the minority party, and county boards are also controlled by the governor’s party. With the bill signed by McCrory on Friday, the state elections board will be combined with the ethics commission and will be comprised of four Republicans and four Democrats, and county boards will also be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
The legislation also states that a Democratic member of the board will be chair in odd years, and a Republican member of the board will be chair in even years, when elections typically take place. It’s not clear how much authority the chair will have.
The Senate bill that passed that body Friday afternoon also changes the appeals process, keeping some cases from being appealed directly to the state Supreme Court and would make state Supreme Court elections partisan. This comes after the state Supreme Court flipped to Democratic control in the 2016 election.
The Republican-led legislature’s power grab follows McCrory’s re-election loss to Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper. McCrory conceded to Cooper after dragging the race out for nearly a month after Election Day. The governor had called a special session to address disaster relief. But after the session ended, Republican legislators called an additional special session and introduced two measures that would cut into Cooper’s power when he takes office.
The second bill, which both houses of the General Assembly have now passed, would subject the governor’s cabinet appointees to state Senate approval. The House version would also cut from 1,500 to 300 the number of “exempt positions,” which are often political in nature, that the governor can appoint. The legislation passed in the House, and the Senate has so far amended the legislation to give Cooper 425 exempt appointees instead if just 300.
The legislation would also shift political appointees to other elected officials, some of which are Republicans, and would allow some of McCrory’s political appointees to stay on in the Cooper administration.