Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Everything You Wanted To Know About The NC GOP's Sore Loser Power Grab But Didn't Know To Ask Because It's Kind Of Insane

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!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

To Boldly Gavel edition

Statehouses... The final frontier.

These are the voyages of state legislators. Their continuing mission: to explore strange new laws, to seek out new statutes and new regulations, to boldly pass laws that no one has passed before (unless they're ALEC shell bills, in which case they pop up basically everywhere).

The Wrath of Con(stitution): While Election 2016 delivered Republicans a net loss of legislative majorities, the fact that they grabbed control of a couple of chambers for the first time in quite a while gives them an opportunity to wreak legit havoc
  • Article V of the Constitution is a real Final Frontier (...sorry) of fundamental governmental change. 
  • Conservative activists who see the traditional method of amending the Constitution as just too darn hard, I guess (nevermind that it's worked just fine 27 times over the past 200+ years) started a push a few years ago to change our founding document by the other means provided for in Article V: two-thirds of state legislatures can request Congress call a constitutional convention of states.
    • Republicans have effective majority control of both chambers in 33 states -- just one shy of the 34 that need to pass resolutions calling for that Article V convention. 
  • An older movement has been pushing an Article V convention for almost 40 years with the sole purpose of passing a balanced budget amendment, but the modern "movement" (the Convention of States, a smokescreen/outgrowth of the right-wing Citizens for Self-Governance) seeks more sweeping changes, from congressional term limits to "restraints on federal power," code for enshrining an ultra-conservative agenda in our fundamental governing document. 
...well, you get it. Ultimately, the point here is that 
  1. This organization has a sweeping, ultra-conservative agenda, and
  2. The fact that there's no precedent and no prescribed rules for an Article V convention means that pretty much anything is possible if a bunch of Republican delegates (from all these GOP-controlled states that made it possible to call the convention) get together and, ahem, revise the U.S. Constitution to conform to their partisan beliefs.

The Session on the Edge of ForeverNorth Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has finally conceded the gubernatorial election to Democrat Roy Cooper, but he may be going out in a blaze of sour grapes.
  • North Carolina Republicans don't handle loss especially graciously. 
    • Exhibit A: Gov. McCrory contesting his narrow-but-clear defeat for almost a month.  
  • Late last week, McCrory called a special legislative session for December 13, ostensibly to deal with disaster relief funding following Hurricane Matthew and wildfires. But word on the street in Raleigh is that Republicans plan to use the session to pack the state Supreme Court with two additional justices -- which would be appointed by GOP lame duck Gov. McCrory and wouldn't stand for election until 2018. 
Rewind: It didn't get quite so much attention, but McCrory wasn't the only North Carolina Republican to go down last month: 
    • GOP Justice Bob Edmunds lost (by more than nine percentage points) to Democratic Judge Mike Morgan in a contest that tilted the balance of power on the state Supreme Court from three Democrats/four Republicans to four Democrats/three Republicans.  
  • A chief justice and six associate justices have comprised SCONC since 1936, but the state's Constitution allows the legislature to expand the court to eight associate justices. Which they could totally do during that December 13 special session.
    • With GOP majorities in both legislative chambers and a Republican governor for just a little while longer, this court-packing scheme faces no practical obstacles. 
Fun fact! The last time Gov. McCrory called a special session, Republican lawmakers used it to ram HB2 down the state's throat. 
  • GOP lawmakers have every reason to want a Republican-majority Supreme Court to uphold their unpopular and destructive policies, especially as they face a Democratic governor in the years to come. 
    • And with someone as shameless as Donald Trump as the head of their party, why wouldn't North Carolina Republicans go all in on this unprecedented power grab?
The Ungerrymandered CountryNorth Carolina Republicans also are tasked with remedying their unconstitutional racial gerrymandering by redrawing state legislative district lines by March 15, 2017, and legislative elections will be held in the new districts in November. 
  • But don't go getting excited about the fact that the state will have a Democratic governor on this one; North Carolina is one of a handful of states in which the governor has zero authority to veto maps or in any way affect the redistricting process. 

Amok Line: Speaking of redistricting, two racial gerrymandering cases were argued before SCOTUS yesterday. The Virginia case concerns 12 House of Delegates districts into which GOP lawmakers packed African Americans, thus diminishing their voting power; another North Carolina case concerns two congressional districts with the same issue. 

Fun fact! Since Virginia holds state legislative elections in odd-numbered years, a ruling in the case may come too late for maps to be redrawn for this election cycle (primaries are typically in June).
  • And let's not forget that the clock is ticking in Wisconsin. When a panel of federal judges ruled on November 21 that extreme partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts violated the U.S. Constitution, they didn't order any immediate changes; rather, they invited ideas for remedies from lawyers and plaintiffs over the subsequent 30 days. 
    • While that deadline hits just a little before Christmas (and Hanukkah this year!), it's unclear how long it'll take those judges to turn those ideas into solutions. 
Also, this is totally getting appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, so there's that.

The Dooms(election)day Machine: For the third election in a row, Democratic candidates for the Michigan state House received more votes statewide then Republican House candidates; however, Democrats remain in the minority in the chamber. 
Just, you know, FYI.

The Lame Duck in the Dark: While we're talking about Michigan, the artificial GOP House majority is fast-tracking a new voter suppression measure through the chamber during their notorious lame-duck session (Republicans have previously used the less-scrutinized period between Election Day and the New Year to ram through so-called "right to work" legislation and eliminate straight-ticket voting [since reinstated by court order]). 
Fun fact! In 2016, 18,339 Michiganders without strict photo ID used the affidavit option to cast ballots — which, incidentally, is 8,000 votes greater than Trump’s margin of victory in the state.
  • Republicans have also pulled their little trick of adding an appropriation to the bill to make it referendum-proof (they did the same thing to their straight-ticket voting measure last year, since voters had already repealed such a law at the ballot box).
    • The legislation is awaiting final passage in the GOP-controlled House before moving to the GOP-controlled Senate. 

The following 2 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: NEW JERSEY and OHIO.


The Republican State Leadership Committee will hold its Annual Retreat December 4-6 in Newport Beach, California. 

The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators will hold its National Summit of Hispanic State Legislators December 6-9 in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures will hold its Capitol Forum December 6-9 in Washington, D.C. 

The Democratic Attorneys General Association will hold its Holiday Party December 8 in Washington, D.C. 

The Council of State Governments will hold its National Conference December 8-11 in Williamsburg, Virginia. 


The Department of Environmental Protection will meet December 7 and December 9 to discuss rules concerning consumptive uses of water. 


The Board of Physician Assistant Examiners will accept comments until December 6 regarding proposed amendments to regulations regarding physician assistant licensure and education, including scope of practice standards and allowed procedures. 


The Legislative Health Care Workforce Commission will meet December 6 to finalize the priorities for the final report due December 31 regarding the health care workforce and primary care workforce. 

The Department of Commerce will accept comments until December 8 regarding drafted amendments to rules governing the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. 


The Department of Labor and Industry will accept comments until December 9 regarding proposed amendments to rules concerning prevailing wage rates to adopt updated rates and make other changes. 


The Senate Labor Committee held a public hearing December 5 regarding A.B. 2517, which grants preference to employers who focus on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields to provide greater access to workforce development funds. 


The Office of the Insurance Commissioner will hold a public hearing December 6 regarding proposed amendments requiring insurers to develop processes through which enrollees are given access to prescription drugs not covered by their health insurance plans.