Editor’s note: After passing a disaster recovery bill on Wednesday, legislative leaders introduced a flood of new bills in a second special session. Policy Watch reporters have detailed some of the most worrisome proposals below.
General Assembly moves to dramatically limit new governor’s powers
By Joe Killian
The North Carolina General Assembly’s GOP majority moved to dramatically limit the powers of the governor’s office Wednesday as Democratic Governor-Elect Roy Cooper prepares to take office next month.
House Bill 17, filed late Wednesday during a special session called without warning to Democratic lawmakers, is the widest ranging example.
The bill would strip the incoming governor of his ability to appoint members to the boards University of North Carolina system schools.
It would also reduce the number of state employees he can hire or fire from 1,500 to 300 – a number the legislature actually expanded under GOP governor Pat McCrory.
In a move never discussed during McCrory’s term as governor, the bill would also make each of Cooper’s cabinet appointments confirmable by the N.C. Senate, with its Republican majority.
In a separate move, the assembly changed the rules of the special session to allow confirmation of two Special Superior Court judges appointed by McCrory before he leaves office. The appointees are conservative Charlotte attorney Adam Conrad and Andrew Heath, who now serves as McCrory’s budget director.
Rep. David Lewis , chairman of the House Rules Committee, telegraphed the intention of the bill – and a number of others filed Wednesday – in comments to reporters Wednesday afternoon.
“You will see the General Assembly look to reassert its constitutional authority in areas that may have been previously delegated to the executive branch,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the GOP intended to communicate that “we are going to continue to be a relevant party in governing this state.” [Continue reading….]
The regulatory reform bill: Imperfect, but it could be worse
By Lisa Sorg
The good news about the Regulatory Reform Bill: There are no ominous “studies” about locating wind turbines near military bases, a precursor to a potential kibosh on the renewable energy resource. In fact, there is no mention of renewable energy at all, which means the portfolio standard passed in 2007 is safe — today. Whew.
The so-so news: The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Chuck McGrady, an environmentally friendly Republican, and Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a not-so-environmentally friendly one, does call for an annual report on the recycling of televisions and computers. However, it doesn’t allow people to dump them in municipal landfills — today. Whew.
The bill language reads:
“The report must include an evaluation of the recycling rates in the State for discarded computer equipment and televisions, a discussion of compliance and enforcement related to the requirements of this Part, and any recommendations for any changes to the system of collection and recycling of discarded computer equipment, televisions, or other electronic devices.”
This is important because the previous regulatory reform bill, which died in June, called for the same study. That could set the stage for a bill in the long session that would allow these electronics to be dumped into public landfills. Yet, TVs and computers are laden with toxic materials. These include lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium — none of which belong in a landfill mingling with banana peels and coffee grounds (which should be composted, anyway) — and possibly leaking into groundwater.[Continue reading….]
Senate bill seeks to create new bipartisan Board of Elections agency, restore partisan court races, diminish power of NC Supreme Court
By Melissa Boughton
A bill filed by Senate Republicans on Wednesday night would take away the political advantage of having Governor-elect Roy Cooper appoint positions to the State Board of Elections by creating a new, bipartisan agency: the Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.
The Board would consist of eight members; four Republicans and four Democrats appointed by the governor and the General Assembly, and they would serve four-year terms. This would make it impossible for a Democratic majority on the State Board of Appeals under Democrat Cooper’s appointments.
The bill would also restore partisan elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals and change the appeals process, making it more difficult to get cases to the high court.
There had been rumors swirling before this special session that the General Assembly would try to add justices to the court in an effort to gain back partisan control. An expansion of the court was not introduced, but it appears this bill attempts to diminish the power and the influence of the Supreme Court.
Democrat Mike Morgan was recently elected to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court in the nonpartisan race. His election flipped the court to a 4-3 Democratic majority.
There was some speculation that Morgan’s 54.45 percent win came because his name was above incumbent justice Robert Edmunds’ on the ballot, a placement held by Republican candidates in other judicial races on the rest of the ballot. The high court candidates also were not identified by their parties on the ballot because the race was non-partisan (though support for each campaign was partisan).
And finally, the bill would give outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory the right to name the chair of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, another power Cooper would have as incoming governor if this bill isn’t passed. [Continue reading….]