In a Thursday morning press conference, Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper slammed North Carolina state Republicans for pushing legislation to limit the governor’s authority “in the dark of night with little debate.”
Cooper said that measures introduced in a surprise last-minute special session to limit the governor’s authority with appointees and change the way the state elections board functions were “unprecedented.”
“This is about thwarting the governors ability to move us forward on education, and health care, and clean air and water,” Cooper told reporters, referring to a measure in the lame duck legislature that would require the governor’s cabinet appointees to be approved by the state Senate.
“This is a way for them to get what they want,” Cooper added, referring to Republican state lawmakers.
Cooper criticized lawmakers for rushing through the legislation in a special session, comparing it to the anti-LGBT law known as HB2 that was also passed in a special session.
“We don’t look good to our people here in North Carolina or to the rest of the country when laws are passed hastily, with little discussion, in the middle of the night,” he said.
Cooper said that the measures proposed in the special session were more than “political games.” He specifically focused on education and warned that the legislation could allow lawmakers to move funding out of public schools.
“I believe that this is an ominous way to take money out of the public school system and give it to private school vouchers,” he said, adding that it could also impact environmental issues and health care.
A measure proposed by Republicans would mandate that all of the governor’s cabinet appointees be approved by the state Senate and would remove the governor’s ability to appoint members to the board of trustees for the University of North Carolina system and appoint members to the state education board.
The state Democratic Party also blasted Republican lawmakers for the move in a Wednesday night statement.
“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. 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,” North Carolina Democratic Party Spokesman Jamal Little said in a statement.
When Republicans on Wednesday called the impromptu special session and introduced measures to curb the governor’s power, Democratic lawmakers protested the session.
“This is why people don’t trust us, this is why they hate us … because of this right here — using hurricane relief as the reason to come back to Raleigh to do a lot of things because you lost an election by 10,000 votes,” state Rep. Darren Jackson (D) said Wednesday night.
He also filed a protest, arguing that the session may not have been constitutional because the signatures with three-fifths of the General Assembly approving the special session were dated before the session was actually called.