A battle for power between Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders continued today when lawmakers declared his call for a special session unconstitutional.
Cooper called the special session to begin at 2 p.m. today for lawmakers to redraw legislative maps after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed 28 of them unconstitutional racial gerrymanders earlier this week.
House Republicans started the process of rejecting the session by saying there was not an extraordinary occasion under which to call the special session. They also questioned whether the Governor consulted the Council of State before hand.
House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson made a motion to appeal the protest of the special session but it failed 44-71 in a vote.
“North Carolina has had three elections in districts found unconstitutional by a unanimous United States Supreme Court,” Jackson said in a statement after the vote. “Governor Cooper called us into session to begin fixing the problem. Unfortunately, Speaker Tim Moore and Republican leaders have chosen not to act quickly. Legislators are already in town. Taxpayers are already paying for us to be here. House Democrats were ready to show up at 2:00 ready to work. Today’s inaction is a bad sign that Republican leaders are ignoring what the courts are telling us and frustrating the public’s desire for a fair and legal redistricting process.”
The Senate rejected Cooper’s special session shortly after the House.
“Despite all his talk about separation of powers, it’s clear Roy Cooper wants to be North Carolina’s governor, legislature, and with this latest stunt, its judiciary too. The courts have yet to give the legislature direction on this matter, and we will be prepared to undertake a thorough redistricting process with ample notice and opportunities for public input when they do,” said Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Yancey) in a statement. “In the meantime, we refuse to be manipulated by the governor into having an unconstitutional special session and will keep our focus on passing a balanced budget that raises teacher pay, provides relief to the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew and puts money back into the pockets of middle-class families.”
Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue condemned his peers in a statement for not moving forward with the special session for redistricting.
“The Supreme Court has issued its decision. The courts have spoken – unanimously – on this issue,” he said. “We have been operating under unconstitutional legislative maps for the past five years. For Republicans to suggest that this issue is not extraordinary is to show contempt for the US Supreme Court, the district courts and the North Carolina voters. Republicans can try to delay justice, but they cannot ignore it.”
The House and Senate adjourned until Monday.
Cooper’s spokesman Ford Porter responded to the legislature’s cancellation of the special session.
“Now the Republican legislature is thumbing its nose at the North Carolina Constitution as well as the US Supreme Court,” he said. “It’s troubling that they prefer to fight about the process rather than draw the new map that North Carolina voters deserve to level the playing field of our democracy. The US Supreme Court was unanimous in its decision and there is no reason to delay the drawing of new maps.”
Republicans have been questioning Cooper’s special session since he called for it Wednesday at a press conference. They’ve also celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling as a victory because justices vacated an order for special elections to remedy the racial gerrymanders.
The party has yet to discuss the fact that 28 of their districts have been unconstitutional for six years.
The order that the Supreme Court affirmed requires the state to redraw legislative maps regardless of whether there will be special elections.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated throughout the day.