“This is not about partisan politics,” former North Carolina Governor Jim Martin said at a press conference Monday. “It’s about power politics – and it must be stopped.”
Martin organized all five living North Carolina governors for the press event at the old State Capitol building Monday to denounce two proposed amendments to the state constitution.
Martin and fellow Republican Pat McCrory joined Democrats Jim Hunt, Mike Easley and Bev Perdue in condemning two amendments they say pose a threat to separation of powers.
The amendments in question – two of six on the ballot this November – shift power from the governor to the Republican dominated legislature. That’s a move opposed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat – but part of a trend that began under his Republican predecessor, Pat McCrory.
One amendment would shift appointments to the state elections and ethics board to from the governor to the legislature – and open the door for the legislature to take over appointments to hundreds of boards and commissions.
McCrory successfully sued legislative leaders from his own party over that issue during his one term as governor, which ended in 2016. Having lost the legal argument, McCrory said, legislators are now trying to get around a near unanimous decision by the N.C. Supreme Court by changing the constitution.
The goal is nothing less than to “strip our executive branch of its rights and responsibilities,” McCrory said – at the expense of a separation of powers that is essential to both national and state government.
“This is what our Founding Fathers were so brilliant in doing,”McCrory said. “Creating checks and balance, the separation of powers.”
McCrory said he had a suggestion for legislators who want the responsibilities of the state’s governor.
“Have the courage to run for governor and win,” McCrory said. “Earn it.”
Perdue said she was dumbfounded upon reading the proposed amendments. The lawmakers should ask themselves what their goal is with them, she said.
“Everything that goes on here should be open, transparent and should be about the people of North Carolina,” Perdue said. “Does it make our lives any better? Does it help our families? Or is it all about making me Boss Hogg?”
Easley predicted that if the amendments pass, the state will be tied up in endless lawsuits. Investors would see it as an unstable “hornet’s nest” in which they wouldn’t be interested in doing business, he said.
“It’s remarkable how poorly these amendments have been drafted,” Easley said. “It would take years upon years for the courts to dissect them and tell the public what they mean.”
“When somebody asks you to vote for a change in your constitution, you have the right to know what the amendment is,” Easley said. “And if you don’t know, vote no.”
Asked if they were worried about their relationship with the GOP in opposing the amendments, Republicans McCrory and Martin said they were not. They felt it was their duty to oppose the amendments no matter who advanced them, they said, and hoped some GOP legislators would join them in urging voters to reject them in November.
In a joint statement Monday afternoon, Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) dismissed the former governors’ criticisms.
“While it’s not surprising former governors oppose checks and balances on the unilateral authority of their office,” the legislative leaders said in the statement, “We are confident the people will support a more accountable approach to filling judicial vacancies and approve a bipartisan balance on critical boards like the state’s ethics and elections commission over a system of purely political control.”