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Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

The package of proposals North Carolina Republican lawmakers are pushing in the surprise special session would drastically weaken the power of the governor, compared not just to what previous governors enjoyed but also compared to governors in other states, according to political experts.

"This would be a dramatic reversal of what trends have been, and it would make the governor of North Carolina probably the weakest governor, at least on paper, in the United States," Thomas Eamon, a political science professor at East Carolina University, told TPM.

The GOP gambit in the short term would deny the governor certain powers right before Democrat Roy Cooper is sworn in, tilting the political playing field to the advantage of the GOP legislature. But the move also defied recent trends toward a stronger governor in North Carolina.

"The trend, over the last, I would say, several decades, has been for the office of governor to get stronger," Eamon told TPM, adding that if passed, the new proposals would mark a big reversal.

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As part of their attempt to curb the power of the incoming Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina are pushing legislation that would allow many of GOP Gov. Pat McCrory's political appointees to become permanent staffers in the next administration.

One bill proposed in the state House during a last-minute special session called on Wednesday would reduce from 1,500 to 300 the number of "exempt positions," jobs that are typically political in nature. This came after the Republican legislature increased the number of exempt positions under McCrory by about 1,000 jobs in 2013.

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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.

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In a surprise extra special session on Wednesday called with just hours notice, the Republican-led North Carolina state legislature introduced measures that would reduce the power of the incoming Democratic governor.

Legislators had convened to address disaster relief, but when the session called by lame duck Gov. Pat McCrory ended on Wednesday, the General Assembly quickly called a new special session to pass additional initially unspecified legislation.

Republican lawmakers' last-minute attempt to limit the state governor's powers comes after McCrory conceded in a tight re-election race to his Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Roy Cooper. McCrory dragged the race out for nearly a month beyond Election Day, using a flurry of ballot complaints to decry widespread voter fraud. But after complaints filed by Republicans were largely dismissed, McCrory finally conceded.

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The North Carolina state general assembly on Wednesday called an impromptu special session, but lawmakers did not specify what legislation they would convene to discuss.

State lawmakers finished up a different special session on Wednesday after passing disaster relief legislation, which was the initial reason lame duck Gov. Pat McCrory (R) called the session this week, according to the News and Observer. Then the legislature immediately went into the mystery special session.

Senate leader Phil Berger (R) announced the surprise session midday, which was convened by the legislature, not McCrory. However, he would not say what legislation lawmakers would consider, and the proclamation establishing the impromptu special session stated that the general assembly would consider "bills concerning any matters the General Assembly elects to consider."

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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Tuesday called on ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to answer questions about whether his company hid what it knew about climate change now that he has been announced as Donald Trump's choice to lead the State Department.

“Now that he’s been nominated by the President-elect, he should absolutely answer the questions that we’ve been asking for months now,” Healey told the Boston Globe. “And this is the opportunity to come clean and produce information from the documents.”

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Donald Trump's transition team on Wednesday distanced itself from the questionnaire it sent to the Energy Department asking for a list of staffers and contractors who had been engaged in climate policy discussions.

"The questionnaire was not authorized or part of our standard protocol. The person who sent it has been properly counseled," an unnamed Trump transition official told CNN.

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Donald Trump has said that he will step away from his businesses by the time he takes office and hand over the reins to his two oldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, but the President-elect's children are still very much involved in efforts to fill out Trump's cabinet.

Trump's three oldest children, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, all sit on the transition team's executive committee. His children have taken part in the process to select cabinet nominees and have sat in on meetings with foreign leaders.

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During an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Tuesday night, Jason Miller, a spokesman for Donald Trump's transition team, repeatedly dodged questions about whether Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency believes in climate change.

Kelly told Miller that "the left" is concerned that Trump's EPA nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt does not believe in climate change. Pruitt has expressed skepticism of climate change, writing earlier this year that "scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."

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