North Carolina GOP Uses Hurricane Relief Session To Undercut Incoming Governor's Powers

Photo Credit: Chuck Burton/AP Images
Photo Credit: Chuck Burton/AP Images

Since everything went to shit, partial solace has been found in the belief that, even if your party of choice failed to win The Big One, there’s plenty that can be done in all levels of government to induce progress. The shitty flip side to this line of thinking is that the same principle applies to government-induced regression.


The North Carolina state government convened in Raleigh Wednesday with the goal of producing disaster recovery legislation for the state’s victims of Hurricane Matthew. It did that, making $200 million available, though that figure has been decried by some as far too low to address all the issues still affecting the population. The GOP—fresh off refusing to eat a loss to the Democrats in the gubernatorial election—figured, hey, may as well make the most of the special session and limit the executive office’s power while they’re there.

See, when soon-to-be former governor Pat McCrory issued his proclamation for the extra session, he wrote that the goal of the sessions was to focus on disaster relief. He also tacked on to the end of the proclamation that the session could be used “for the purpose of addressing any other matters the General Assembly elects to consider.” Thus, Republican representatives were gifted an opportunity to set fire to the drapes and rip out all the fixtures before governor-elect Roy Cooper can move in.

The initial worry regarding the GOP session—aside from the fact that the last special session of note gave us House Bill 2, aka the Bathroom Bill That Actually Fucked Up Way More Than Bathroom Policy—was that the party would attempt to pack the Supreme Court prior to Cooper’s inauguration. The court is set to lean 4-3 in favor of the progressives with Cooper winning the election. But the court-packing never came to fruition. Instead, the GOP pulled some even more nefarious shit, drafting legislation aimed at undercutting the power of both governor-elect Cooper, who is set to take office in two weeks on Jan. 1, and the state supreme court.

With House Bill 3, House Bill 13, House Bill 17, and Senate Bill 4—all of which can and should be read in full by N.C. citizens—the GOP is attempting to pass the following changes into law (these are just the highlights, mind you):

  • Require the governor’s Cabinet appointments to be approved by the N.C. Senate (the GOP holds a supermajority in both the Senate and the House).
  • Remove the governor’s power to appoint the public university system’s school board of trustees—an important group, both to those in secondary education and state politics, that heads the UNC system—and give it to the General Assembly (controlled by the GOP).
  • Alter the make-up of county election boards from the 2-1 advantage currently granted to the governor’s party to an evenly split, four-person board.
  • Alter the State Board of Elections from the 3-2 advantage granted to the governor’s party to an evenly split, eight-person board, and require a six-person vote to move on any measure.
  • Per page 10, line 47 of SB 4: The Democratic party election board appointees would chair in odd-numbered years; the Republicans would chair in even-number years. This means that GOP county election board members would hold the chair during the Big 3 elections: legislative, congressional, and presidential.
  • Cut the number of positions working directly for the governor from 1,500 to 300—Republicans increased the number from roughly 500 to 1,500 when McCrory was elected in 2008, per WRAL.
  • Dial back the governor’s administrative powers over the Department of Public Instruction, and grant them instead to the department’s superintendent, a separately elected position. Republican Mark Johnson just won said election; the proposed legislature grants him 70 more “exempt” positions and greater influence over the state’s horrendously mismanaged education budget.
  • Cuts the governor’s ability to appoint Charter Schools Advisory Board members, student advisors, and the Board of Education’s superintendent advisor.
  • Limit the N.C. Supreme Court in its ability to review state constitutional and federal challenges (remember, they already started on this with HB2) and instead give that power to the appeals court judges, who, you guessed it, are majority Republican.
  • House Bill 13 would allow districts to increase their state-funded class sizes by another three students in all classes from kindergarten through third grade; the same age group is allowed to exceed the class size by six students if it’s an individual class.

This is as good a time as any to remind you that a federal three-judge panel found the North Carolina legislature’s racist gerrymandering unconstitutional and required the state to redraw House and Senate districts and hold elections in 2017; the U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing the appeal, Harris v. McCrory. An addendum to this information: The North Carolina House and Senate are controlled by Republicans whose continued tenure in office relies in large part on said gerrymandered districts.