North Carolina Republicans have an emergency on their hands. They’ve come down with a terrible case of SoreLoseritis and should really seek help immediately.
Instead, though, GOP lawmakers called an “emergency” special session – the fourth special session just this year (one of the previous ones was used to pass the infamous HB2) – with no express purpose, but with the rather obvious purpose of depriving the Democratic governor-elect of as much power as possible.
Yesterday the North Carolina legislature convened to ostensibly consider disaster relief funding legislation, but now we know what Republican legislators were really up to all along: Bringing their posse to town so they could call special session #4 and execute a naked and sweeping partisan power grab before the Democrat who had the temerity to win more votes than his Republican opponent takes office and denies the GOP complete control of state government.
North Carolina Republicans went to disgusting lengths to suppress votes in an attempt to ensure GOP wins at every level of the ballot in November. But despite their most appalling efforts, Democrat Roy Cooper ousted incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
Evidently this was just too much for Republican lawmakers to cope with. So rather than gracefully accepting the will of the state’s voters, they’re doing just about everything they can think of to undermine gubernatorial authority instead.
A handful of bills dropped tonight. One is clearly a skeleton, filed just so amendments can get pinned to it tomorrow morning.
But SB4? Oh, it’s a doozy.
I encourage you to read it yourself, but here’s the quick and dirty:
- Currently the NC State Board of Elections consists of five members appointed by the governor. This bill expands the board to eight members, four of which are appointed by the governor, two “of the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates” and two of the “party with the second highest number of registered affiliates.” So, under a Democratic governor, we’re at 2 D/2 R.
- · The House and Senate each get to appoint two members, one from each party. Again, 2 D/2 R. So instead of the 3-2 split the board would have had under a Democratic governor, this expanded board will be split evenly, 4 D/4 R
o But in deciding disputes and resolving issues, a simple majority of five of the eight votes of this new board won’t get you squat. According to this bill, “a majority vote for action shall require six of the eight members.”
§ …which is basically a recipe for perpetual gridlock and inaction.
o The chairmanship of the Board will flip parties each year. Based on current party registration numbers, a Democrat will get to chair the board in odd years, and a Republican will have the reigns in even years.
Fun fact! With the exception of the court-ordered special legislative elections in 2017 and a handful of school boards and municipalities, ALL ELECTIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA ARE HELD IN EVEN YEARS.
o The bill also appears to undermine a good chunk of the Secretary of State’s current authority.
Surprise! The SoS who just won reelection is a Democrat.
o Additionally, under a Democratic governor, local electoral boards should be 2 D/1 R. This legislation would split them at 2 D/2 R.
§ This is an especially big deal in light of the outsized role local election boards played in voter suppression attempts in the 2016 election.
- The measure also explicitly prohibits the State Board of Elections from having anything whatsoever to do with redistricting, whether it’s drafting the new maps after a Census or revising unconstitutional maps thrown out by courts. The GOP-controlled legislature wants to make it crystal clear that only their grubby hands get to touch the redistricting pens.
- Currently, judges run for election to the North Carolina Supreme Court without party labels. This bill makes elections to the state’s highest court partisan.
o This follows speculation that the GOP lost its effective majority on the state Supreme Court in November because the Democratic challenger who won wasn’t labeled by party on the ballot.
- · SB4 changes the appeals process through which the Republican-controlled legislature’s bills may be appealed to the now Democratic-majority state Supreme Court. The option to bypass the Court of Appeals and appeal potentially unconstitutional or federally preempted laws directly to the SCONC is currently available in some cases. This bill removes the option for that streamlined procedure and adds a required layer to the process.
But wait! What about other “emergency” bills that have been filed for this “emergency” special session?
- · Well, let’s take a look at HB17, which cuts the number of gubernatorial appointments from 1500 to 300.
Fun fact! When McCrory was first elected, replacing Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, the GOP-controlled legislature expanded the number of gubernatorial appointments from 500 to 1500!
- · HB17 also imposes the requirement that cabinet appointments be “subject to senatorial advice and consent.”
o Because he’s a Democrat, North Carolina Republicans are requiring, for the first time ever, that Cooper’s appointees be confirmed by the GOP-controlled state Senate. This should go well!
Session convenes at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. Stay tuned!