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Hullabaloo


Thursday, December 15, 2016

 

Smite makes right

by Tom Sullivan

If you wonder what sort of mischief Congress might have on tap under a Trump administration, watch North Carolina. Having lost the governor's race and a state Supreme Court seat (and the court majority) on November 8, North Carolina Republicans called a special session to address hurricane relief. Completing that, they immediately called another, their fourth so far:

Lawmakers want to hobble the incoming Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, before he takes office Jan. 1 by making his Cabinet appointments subject to approval by the state Senate and cutting his ability to appoint members to UNC schools’ boards of trustees and the state Board of Education.

Another proposal in the mix would equally divide election boards between the two major political parties, ending control by the governor’s party.

Yet another provision would cut the number of employees who serve at the governor’s pleasure from 1,500 to 300, reversing an expansion approved for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory at the start of his term.
This is why I lose patience with friends who think the presidential race is the be-all and end-all of political action.

"It appears this fourth special session will be to nullify the vote of the people for governor," House Minority Leader Larry Hall told WRAL.

The ugly rumor was the NCGOP would restore their Supreme Court majority by packing the court, adding (and filling) two additional seats as the constitution allows. Instead they propose altering the appeals process to limit the kinds of cases the court sees.

But for those of us protective of voting rights, the proposed changes to county and state election boards are significant. Currently, the party of the governor determines which party holds the majority on state and county Boards of Elections. But with a new Democratic governor in the wings, that had to change, especially since even Republican-controlled boards ruled against Gov. Pat McCrory during vote-counting.

So NC's T-party Republican legislature proposes changing the partisan composition of the boards of election from 2:1 at the county level to 2D:2R, and at the state level from 3:2 to 4D:4R, with 6 votes there constituting a "majority." Republicans are betting good-government Democrats will vote more often with Republicans on less-than-awful proposals (and to prevent stalemate), while the 4-vote GOP bloc can stop anything favored by Democrats they don't like.

Bonus: In even-numbered years (general election years) they propose that the chairmanships shall go to the party with the second highest number of registered voters. In odd-numbered years, the chairmanship shall go to the party with the majority of registered voters. Guess which party has the second highest voter registration in NC?

None of the bills passed yet, but there is nothing to stop them. Massive resistance is about the only play North Carolina's left has left. Democrats don't have the votes. Next year they won't have the U.S.Supreme Court or the Department of Justice to backstop them either. And the NCGOP is about to neuter the incoming Democratic governor.

“I think to be candid with you, that you will see the General Assembly look to reassert its constitutional authority in areas that may have been previously delegated to the executive branch,” House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis told reporters.

The News & Record of Greensboro reports:
Lewis was asked why the special session was necessary for legislation that would normally take weeks, if not months, to address, particularly when Republicans hold super-majority margins in both chambers.

Lewis responded by saying “the opportunity presents itself and we intend to address these issues before Jan. 1”
That is, they're doing it because they can, and because Gov.-elect Roy Cooper takes office on Januray 1.

These are not quite "Raleighstag" fire decrees, but that's the general idea. Who knows what's in store once Congress comes back into session under President Donald Trump?

Update: corrected count on current 5-member state board