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.
Those positions will not necessarily be eliminated, however. The House bill states that for any employee who has worked in an “exempt” position for a year or longer and had his or her status changed by the reduction in the governor’s appointees will then become a “career state employee.” In other words, those appointed by McCrory will not be out of a job and will stay on during the Cooper administration.
The bill also increases the number of exempt appointees that other statewide elected officials are able to appoint, taking power away from the incoming Democratic governor, and giving more authority to some Republican officials.
Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College, told TPM that the legislation would move some of the exempt positions from the governor to other areas of the government, “particularly those overseen by Republican elected executive position officers, like the department of public instruction.”
“There is a definite shifting from a Democratic governor to politically safe Republican areas that the legislature is engaged in,” he said.
For example, under the proposed House bill, the lieutenant governor would be able to appoint additional political employees, which Dr. Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, noted in a phone interview with TPM is “historically just a ceremonial office.” The incoming lieutenant governor is also a Republican.
“What you have going on here is, therefore, the Republicans trying to strip that executive authority down to the absolute bare minimum,” Greene told TPM.
North Carolina Republicans in particular are focused on stripping power from the state education board and increasing the authority of the incoming Republican state superintendent.
As the News and Observer reported, the House bill removes the administration of state public schools and the Department of Public Instruction from the state education board and gives that authority to the new state superintendent. The bill also removes the governor’s ability to appoint members to the state education board and to the board of trustees of the University of North Carolina system.
The General Assembly had previously removed control of the Office of Charter Schools from the state superintendent, who is currently a Democrat, but would give that authority over charter schools back to the new superintendent in the proposed legislation, per the News and Observer.
The state House also introduced other legislation regarding education, including a bill that would increase class sizes.