They lost the governor’s mansion and a majority on the state supreme court, and they’re determined to make sure it won’t happen again. Late Thursday night, state Senate President pro tem Phil Berger, a Republican, convened a special session to pass several last-minute bills that would circumscribe the governor’s powers. If enacted into law, they would be very good for Republicans and no one else.
Among other things, HB 17 mandates that all of the governor’s cabinet appointments require Senate approval. While this might seem innocuous on its face—this is the way cabinet appointments are done at the federal level, after all—Lewis admitted to reporters afterwards that [Governor-elect Roy] Cooper’s election was the driving force behind legislators deciding to do this in the short session, rather than wait until the longer one. So, if [outgoing Governor Pat] McCrory had won, it’s likely this bill (or even this session) would have never seen the light of day.
HB 17 also delegates much more authority to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a seat which was (surprise!) won by a Republican. One change? The new SPI, Mark Johnson, will now co-supervise the School Achievement District with the state Board of Education.
Another bill, SB 4, would combine the state board of ethics and the state board of elections into a single entity that would—what a coincidence!—be controlled by Republicans. McCrory reluctantly conceded the election to Cooper, a Democrat, earlier this month, after initially demanding a recount due to unproven allegations of voter fraud. This special session is a clear attempt to strengthen the party’s grip on the state before Cooper can take office next month.