Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times editorial today slams the Republicans in the North Carolina legislature who are seeking to change a number of long-standing statutes to limit the powers of the new incoming Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. It is a shameful and “brazen power grab” by a state political party without any morals. The entire editorial appears below.
A Brazen Power Grab in North Carolina
By THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD
December 15, 2016
“Having lost the governorship of North Carolina, Republicans there are resorting to a novel strategy to subvert the will of the voters: They are trying to strip the new governor of some of his powers.
First, for weeks after the close election, Gov. Pat McCrory refused to concede to Attorney General Roy Cooper, demanding recounts and alleging, without evidence, widespread voting fraud. It didn’t get him anywhere. So on Wednesday, during a hastily convened special session, Republican lawmakers introduced bills to, among other things, require State Senate confirmation of cabinet appointments; slash the number of employees who report to the governor to 300 from 1,500; and give Republicans greater clout on the Board of Elections, the body that sets the rules for North Carolina’s notoriously burdensome balloting.
With overwhelming Republican majorities in both chambers, and a governor, there seems to be little Democrats can do to prevent the bills from becoming law in the days ahead.
“This is one of the greatest coups we’ve seen in modern-day America,” said the House Democratic leader, Larry Hall. “This is an effort to nullify the clear vote of the people.”
Mr. Cooper said on Thursday that he might challenge the constitutionality of the measures in court, arguing that sweeping changes to the state’s power structure should not be rammed through without careful consideration and debate. If the Republicans succeed in stripping much of the governor’s authority, they will hamstring his ability to make sensible reforms in many areas, including public education, health care and environmental policy.
This legislative power grab is the latest underhanded step by a state Republican Party desperate to stay in power in a state where demographic changes would normally benefit Democrats. Republicans in North Carolina, a presidential battleground state, have used aggressive redistricting and voting suppression measures that are among the most brazen in the nation to win elections. The courts have blocked some of these efforts, but Republicans have found workarounds, for instance, by limiting voting hours and sites.
“I think they’re doing this because they think they can get away with it,” said Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina.
Even if Mr. Cooper was to succeed in beating back these efforts to weaken the governorship, he would assume power with Republican veto-proof majorities in the House and the Senate. That means his greatest asset, in the short run, will be the bully pulpit.
Mr. Cooper can travel around the state promoting a robust legislative agenda that includes investments in public education and the repeal of the discriminatory transgender restroom law that Mr. McCrory and his legislative allies passed earlier this year, leading to a backlash by the business community. He ought to remind taxpayers how much of their money has been wasted on legal challenges to Republican voting suppression efforts. And he should use his victory to persuade them that even in a rigged system, voters can defeat greedy leaders who have violated their trust.”