Friday, December 16, 2016

North Carolina Power Grab, Day 2: Arrests and Lawsuit Threats - The Atlantic

North Carolina Power Grab, Day 2: Arrests and Lawsuit Threats - The Atlantic:

Republicans Forge Ahead With Their North Carolina Power Grab
As GOP efforts to restrain gubernatorial power rolled forward, Governor-elect Roy Cooper, a Democrat, threatened to sue, and activists were arrested for disrupting the legislature.

DURHAM, N.C.—A Republican effort to handcuff incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper rolled forward on Thursday, in a day marked by somewhat acrimonious debate and fierce protests at the General Assembly in Raleigh. About 20 demonstrators as well as one journalist were arrested amid demonstrations against what liberal groups are describing as a “legislative coup.”

Cooper offered brief remarks Thursday morning, firing back at Republicans and threatening to sue over them.

“If I believe that laws passed by the legislature hurt working families and are unconstitutional, they will see me in court,” said Cooper, who is currently the state attorney general. “And they don’t have a very good track record there.”

The state senate passed a bill overhauling the state board of elections, combining it with the state ethics commission, as well as county boards of elections, by a 30-16 margin, along party lines. It’s the latest in a long-running, partially successful effort by state Republicans to rework the state’s elections system to benefit themselves. The state house passed a bill that will reduce the number of jobs appointed to the governor from 1,500 to 300, make Cabinet picks subject to state senate approval, and withdraw the governor’s ability to make appointments to University of North Carolina system boards of trustees and the state school board. (In effect, that will convert many of the political appointments made by outgoing Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, into permanent jobs.) That bill passed 70-35.

The session, complete with fervent protests, was a replay of a common scene over the last four years: Republicans in the legislature introduce a bill; Democrats argue against fiercely; a large number of protestors arrive and demonstrate; but the bills roll on with little impediment, thanks to large Republican majorities in both houses. Those majorities exist in part thanks to gerrymandered districts, some of which were so extreme that a federal court has ordered them redrawn and has shortened the terms of some legislators to a year in order to accommodate special elections in 2017.

But Republicans feel emboldened, knowing that it doesn’t matter how many hundreds of people show up to demonstrate in Raleigh, because the legislative map guarantees there’s little prospect of Democrats taking back either chamber any time soon. There is minimal pretense that the bills under consideration are anything other than an attempt to undercut Cooper. On Wednesday, the chairman of the House rules committee said they were intended to reassert legislative power, but he also admitted that they might not have happened if not for McCrory’s defeat.

It is not as if the legislature has been timid in asserting its powers, even during McCrory’s tenure. When the governor has on occasion tried to veto laws, lawmakers have been happy to override him. When he declined to call a special North Carolina Power Grab, Day 2: Arrests and Lawsuit Threats - The Atlantic:

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