Friday, December 16, 2016

Stripping power

Back in November as part of a blurb about Pat McCrory, current governor of North Carolina and sponsor of the nasty “bathroom bill” who lost to Roy Cooper by about 10,000 votes, I mentioned that McCrory was trying to delegitimize the election process in hopes the state legislature would reject the results and declare McCrory the winner. It took a month before McCrory eventually conceded.

However, the legislature isn’t pleased with the outcome. They aren’t going to kick Cooper out and hand the job to McCrory. Their solution is worse. In a special session to discuss “disaster recovery” they’re rejecting the result by stripping Cooper’s job of a great deal of power.

North Carolina is highly gerrymandered to give the GOP a majority in both houses of the legislature large enough to override a veto by the governor. Even so, having a Democrat in the governor’s office is intolerable to them. The various bills would hit several areas.

* The state board of elections and its various local counterparts had an odd number of seats with the last seat going to the governor’s party. The new makeup will have an even number of seats and a requirement that actions need a supermajority. Under McCrory these election boards implemented a slew of voter suppression measures. Cooper will be unable to undo them.

* The state board of elections provides data for redistricting. A federal court says NC must redraw their maps. The proposed law would keep the state board out of the redistricting process, which probably means the GOP would tell the court they don’t have the data to comply with redistricting.

* The governor appoints heads of key departments. The legislature wants to require all those jobs to have state senate approval, meaning the GOP has veto power over all of them.

* When McCrory took the governor job in 2013 the legislature increased by a lot number of jobs he could appoint. Now that McCrory is leaving the list of appointable jobs is being slashed. Most importantly Cooper won’t be able to appoint people to key regulatory agencies nor to the Board of Education.

* Democrats won a 4-3 majority in the state Supreme Court, though it is nominally nonpartisan. The legislature is considering adding two more justices that McCrory can appoint on his way out the door. There are two reasons for that: 1), only a Dem led Court could stop these power plays and 2) the Court plays a big role in redistricting. They introduced a bill to require constitutional issues to first go through the state Court of Appeals where the GOP has a big majority. They also want to make races for justices to be explicitly partisan.

All those bills went before the legislature yesterday. The galleries were, of course, packed. A few of the observers protested, giving the GOP the excuse to clear the galleries, allowing them to proceed without citizen witnesses. Some of these protesters were arrested.

The GOP hasn’t done this much power-stripping since 1892 when they essentially pulled off a coup and instituted Jim Crow.

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