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N.C. Republicans Move To Limit Powers Of Incoming Democratic Governor

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, accompanied by his wife, Ann McCrory, speaks to supporters at a postelection rally in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 9. McCrory was not re-elected.
Chuck Burton

The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature has introduced measures to limit the powers of the incoming Democratic governor.

Roy Cooper, the state's current attorney general, beat current Republican Gov. Pat McCrory by a slim margin in the November election. McCrory initially refused to concede until a vote recount proved he had lost by about 10,000 votes.

On Wednesday, the state Legislature met for a special session called by Republican lawmakers ostensibly to pass a disaster relief bill for Hurricane Matthew.

But once the relief bill had been passed, the Legislature moved to introduce a slew of new laws which, if passed, would go to McCrory to sign.

The proposed laws strip the incoming governor of powers his predecessor held, including the power to appoint his Cabinet without legislative approval, the power to appoint trustees for the University of North Carolina and the power to oversee the state's election board.

The five-member election board — which is currently controlled by the governor, who can appoint up to three members from his or her own party — would be reduced to four members, two from each party. Such a change could have ripple effects, since the state body appoints members to county election boards across the state.

Three of North Carolina's county election boards faced a legal challenge in November after they attempted to revoke the voting rights of thousands of registered voters shortly before Election Day. A federal judge blocked the move.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature and will continue to do so when the new session begins in January. If McCrory signs the bills, Cooper will wield significantly less power when he takes office.

The Charlotte Observer reported on Cooper's response to the 11th-hour changes to the state's executive branch powers:

" 'Major changes in the way state government operates should be done deliberately, with input from all parties, particularly something as important as elections and making sure people have the opportunity to vote,' said Cooper. ... 'They shouldn't be pushed through in the dark of night.' ...

" 'It's time for them to go home,' he said. 'It's time for us to get ready for the long session,' the legislative session that starts next month."

The special session of the Legislature also considered newly proposed bills to increase the maximum class size in North Carolina schools and make changes to a proposed highway project before the new administration takes over.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
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