In Two Special Sessions This Week, NCGA Provides Disaster Relief and ‘Reasserts Authority Previously Delegated to the Executive Branch’
By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
December 16, 2016
RALEIGH – Incoming Gov. Roy Cooper may have less power than his predecessor following the North Carolina General Assembly’s passage of legislation this week making his cabinet appointments subject to Senate approval, cutting the number of state employees that he can directly hire and fire and evenly dividing the state Board of Elections along party lines.
Last week, Governor McCrory called a special session for Tuesday instructing lawmakers to take up a measure to provide disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Matthew.
But when legislators finished their work passing appropriations for victims, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R), Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro-tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) called for an additional special session on Wednesday. House Rules Chairman, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), told the media the purpose for the additional session was to “reassert the General Assembly’s authority in areas that have previously been delegated to the executive branch.”
The legislation that followed was a surprise to Democrats, who said the new laws were being pushed through too hastily, and spurred protests at the Legislative Building that led to nearly 40 arrests.
“At the NCGA numerous protestors filled the galleries and the upper floor between the chambers endlessly chanting at lawmakers below, ‘All political power belongs to the people,’” explained the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Is this the power of persuasion? No! This is the rotten child that falls to the floor, kicking, screaming, wailing, until it gets what it wants.”
While Governor-elect Roy Cooper during a press conference threatened to sue the Legislature over the changes, calling them “more ominous” than a “political power grab,” Republicans such as Rocky Mount’s Jeff Collins said changes were needed to realign the current power balance in state government. Collins described it as “way out of kilter” because of alterations that were made during the administrations of Gov. Jim Hunt (D) and Gov. Jim Martin (R).
Rep. John Hardister (R-Guilford) stated in a Facebook post that the adjustments made this week were justified.
“We acted within our legislative power to structure government in such a way that we can advance policies that we believe are important for North Carolina. We may have considered some of these legislative changes regardless of the outcome of the election. It is normal for a legislative body to take this kind of action,” said Hardister. “Democrats did this many times in the past, and it was their right to do so. In fact, Democrats have taken this kind of action in response to the election of two Republican governors and one lieutenant governor. It’s amazing how liberals and the media did not complain when Democrats used this authority, but they are now attacking Republicans for doing the same.”
“[T]here’s nothing wrong with a legislative body acting within its authority to advance policies that the majority of the body supports. Everything that we did was according to the law, and each bill was heard in committees and debated on the floor in both chambers,” Hardister added.
Dr. Creech said protesters’ behavior was “no redress of grievances to which all citizens in our Republic are due.”
Instead, he called it “the advocacy of those bankrupt of sufficient argument, emotion with no rationale and the art of mob rule.”
“People can fuss about the process, but let’s be honest. These people would just be as unhappy if we passed it a month from now,” said GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse. “They don’t like what’s being done but they were OK with it when the Democrats did it. There’s hypocrisy here.”
In other action, legislators granted more power to incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson.
Rep. Lewis, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the change “treats the superintendent of public instruction with the authority that we give other heads of state agencies,” and that the move would restore an arrangement that existed until the 1990s.
He said current divisions between the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction has been confusing.