2nd legislative special session would curb power of incoming NC governor

The General Assembly on Wednesday. Photo by Michael Hyland/CBS North Carolina.
The General Assembly on Wednesday. Photo by Michael Hyland/CBS North Carolina.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) — In a surprise second special session of the N.C. General Assembly Wednesday afternoon, Senate Republicans are trying to curb what incoming governor Roy Cooper have the authority to do.

One bill introduced Wednesday cuts the number of appointments Cooper could make and would require the Senate to approve his cabinet picks.

“Well, it’s one of those things where we’ve talked about it for a while, but we think this is the great timing to do it,” said House Speaker Tim Moore.

Another bill would make proposing dramatic changes to state elections laws. That bill filed Wednesday evening would merge the State Board of Elections with the State Ethics Commission.

The bill envisions creating a new eight-member board, with four appointees picked by the governor and the General Assembly. There would be four Democrats and four Republicans. Current law gives a majority of the state elections board’s five members to the governor’s party.

County election boards would become four-member panels, compared to three today.

The legislation would make elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals seats officially partisan again, with party primaries. It also would direct the Court of Appeals to meet “en banc” with up to 15 judges to rehear cases heard by three-judge panels.

A Senate committee could hear the measure Thursday morning.

In other moves during the surprise special session, Senate leader Phil Berger he anticipates his chamber considering two nominations to the North Carolina Business Court by outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory.

House Republicans already filed a regulatory bill that contains many provisions agreed to by lawmakers during this year’s work session but never became law. The legislation would reduce the number of counties where motorists must undergo vehicle emission tests.

The legislature adjourned Wednesday afternoon the session that Gov. Pat McCrory called primarily to approve money for relief after Hurricane Matthew and wildfires in the mountains. But GOP leaders had accumulated enough signatures from colleagues to call themselves back to work minutes later for the second special session.

House Democrats lodged a formal protest against the new session, saying the method through which Republicans convened is unconstitutional.

“No question that most of the action we’re going to see is going to end up in the courts,” said Rep. Larry Hall a Democrat from Durham County.

Later Wednesday night, Governor McCrory announced that on Thursday morning he will sign a $201 million disaster relief bill that the General Assembly approved on Wednesday.

McCrory spoke to House and Senate committees this week to push for the proposal, which was spurred by Hurricane Matthew and wildfires in the North Carolina mountains. No one in the House and Senate voted against the legislation.

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