Saturday, December 17, 2016

Defeated North Carolina governor stages "coup" in surprise, lame-duck legislative session.

North Carolina's notorious "bathroom" law, requiring trans kids to use school restrooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificate, is the gift that keeps on giving.   On November 8th, it gave incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory, who had signed the bill, his walking papers.

Last week, the San Francisco Symphony cancelled a scheduled concert in Charlotte, the latest in a string of cancellations including rock concerts, NCAA finals games, conventions, tour groups, and major business relocations and investments.   A film company pulled it's filming location from the state.   They all said their decision is the result of the hostile atmosphere toward diversity.

Despite fierce partisan battles that were damaging the state, Gov. McCrory has remained defiant.   Expanding from the right-wing position on sex, the Republican-dominated legislature backed the governor in passing the most restrictive limitations on voting rights, most of which were struck down by SCOTUS.

When the election vote count showed McCrory losing his re-election bid by some 4,300 votes to Attorney General Roy Cooper, he refused to accept the results.   He insisted that all 60,000 provisional ballots be counted;   then he filed election protests in 52 counties and demanded a statewide recount, claiming widespread voter fraud.    He kept up this resistance for four weeks, until it became obvious that his margin of loss was increasing, not getting smaller.    When his loss exceeded 10,000, thus precluding a recount, he conceded.

But he was not yet done.  With both legislative houses remaining in Republican control and him still governor until January 1, the Republicans hastily wrote two bills that would gut much of the power of the incoming governor, especially over elections and appointments.    All this was done in secret until Wednesday of this week.   Then a surprise special session was called for the next day, and House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 4 were introduced.   Each house passed its bill by large margins and sent it on to the other house.

As of Friday evening and of this writing, SB 4 has made it through both houses and has been signed into law by McCrory.   A vote on the other bill is pending at this moment.

Here are some of the effects that will ensue:

1.  SB 4 greatly reduces the power the governor has in appointing members of both the state and country Board of Elections.   This will take away the power the incoming Democratic Governor Cooper would have to restore more generous early voting hours, the number of polling places, etc. that make it easier to vote.   These boards also deal with any questions that arise concerning the integrity of elections, which is important since many of the restrictions were attempts to circumvent the federal court decision that struck down North Carolina's voting law as unconstitutionally discriminating against African-Americans.

2.  HB 17, which is also expected to pass and be signed by McCrory, would require that all of the governor's cabinet appointments get the approval of the Republican-dominated state Senate.  It also greatly reduces the number of state employees who serve at the governor's pleasure, thus making them civil service employees rather than part of the governor's policy-making team.  It also bars him from making any appointments to the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees or to the State Board of Education.

SB 4 sounds like politics.   HB 17 sounds more like raw retribution from an angry loser who cannot accept his defeat.   Governor-elect Cooper has vowed to fight this in the courts as an unconstitutional power grab by a defeated incumbent.

North Carolina's experience is what we're facing as a nation, I'm afraid.


PS:  Later Friday night, HB 17 did pass, and McCrory signed it. 

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