Legislature, News, Special Session

Prominent NC conservative on special session last week: ‘Would have been better to provide more time’

Special session imagesJohn Hood, president of the John William Pope foundation, told Vice News on Friday that Republicans in the North Carolina legislature may wish they had slowed their roll.

“These are significant changes to the government of the state,” he said. “It would have been better to provide more time.”

He was speaking about last week’s surprise special session in which Republicans, who have a super majority in the House and Senate, passed bills stripping Democrat Gov.-elect Roy Cooper of power, among other things.

The John William Pope Foundation is the grant-making arm of the policy empire controlled by North Carolina Republican megadonor Art Pope, who is also a top backer of outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Hood told the news outlet that it wasn’t the changes Republicans were proposing that scared him, it was the scope of the proposals and the pace legislators were moving them into law that worried him.

You can read the full interview here.

Ultimately, Hood said, what the Republicans did last week doesn’t help create a functional government in North Carolina.

Rather, it continues “a cycle that harms our discourse in the long run.”

Commentary, Special Session

McCrory has still not signed one major bill from last week’s special session

For what it’s worth — and it may not be much — Gov. Pat McCrory has still not signed House Bill 17 from last week’s special session. This is the bill, you will recall, that  makes a host of changes (and by changes, I mean drastic reductions) in the powers of the Governor’s office in such areas as education, the appointment of UNC Board of Trustees members and, indeed, the appointment of the Governor’s own cabinet. It’s a bill that goes so far that it’s even drawn fire from conservatives like the John Locke Foundation and former Republican Governor, Jim Martin.

As for why McCrory hasn’t yet acted on the bill, we know nothing. The Guv has been notably uncommunicative when it comes to last week’s nefarious actions. Perhaps there is some hopeful explanation (like that McCrory is seriously thinking about vetoing the measure or leaving it to his successor, who takes office in 13 days) or perhaps he’s just been out cutting ribbons and getting pedicures and hasn’t had a chance.

Whichever it is, we’ll share any information as it becomes available. Keep your fingers crossed.

Commentary, News, Special Session

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. The cynical, undemocratic and outrageous spectacle in Raleigh

Early in the special legislative session Wednesday called by Gov. Pat McCrory for disaster relief, House Rules Chair David Lewis responded on the House floor to a question about the rules governing the session by saying House leaders were trying to be “as transparent as they can.”

That was, simply put, a lie.

Two days before—on Monday—Lewis, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate President Phil Berger, and other Republican lawmakers signed a letter to call another special session when the disaster relief session adjourned to ram through legislation to take power away from the new Democratic governor and to remake the structure of state government on the fly.

They never bothered to tell the Democrats, the media, or the public about their scheme.[Continue reading…]

***Bonus video: Rep. Jackson: Surprise special session violates constitution

***Bonus read: NC Policy Watch reporter arrested as he attempted to cover debate in state House of Representatives

***Bonus radio commentary: Proof that power that corrupts

2. Conservative lawmakers move to curtail Cooper’s powers in additional special session

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

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. [Continue reading….]

***Bonus video: Rep. Lehman: Power grab legislation “vendetta against duly elected governor”

3. McCrory signs Senate Bill 4 in less than an hour; appoints chief of staff’s wife to Industrial Commission

Well, that was fast. Less than an hour after Senate Bill 4 made it back to the Senate after it was passed in the House, Gov. Pat McCrory signed it into law and then recommended his chief of staff’s wife as an appointment to the Industrial Commission.

The outgoing governor has not responded to multiple requests for comment about the special session, and there had been speculation about whether or not he would sign legislation that came from the surprise fourth special session of the year.

House Speaker Tim Moore made the announcement that the bill was signed. The bill will create a bipartisan Board of Elections and ethics agency, reestablish partisan elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, modify the appellate court process and allow McCrory to fill a vacancy on the Industrial Commission.

Yolanda Stith’s name was put forth a short time later in the Senate session. She is currently the Executive Director at North Carolina Association Long Term Care Facilities and the wife of Thomas Stith, McCrory’s chief of staff. She was previously a lobbyist. [Continue reading….]

4. Special session secrecy is outrageous regardless of what’s on the agenda

Whether it’s Hurricane relief, court-packing or something else, legislators should have provided details several days ago

The North Carolina General Assembly returns to Raleigh today for a special, lame duck legislative session. The ostensible purpose is to take actions that would supplement ongoing efforts to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Matthew and recent wildfires that swept through the drought-parched western part of the state.

As dozens of news stories and the state government rumor mill have made distressingly clear in recent days, however, it’s a virtual certainty that lawmakers will expand the agenda to include other items. Here’s Colin Campbell of Raleigh’s News & Observer in a story yesterday:

“Gov. Pat McCrory has scheduled a special session of the state legislature for 10 a.m. Tuesday, and four words in his proclamation are fueling speculation that lawmakers might go beyond disaster relief. [Continue reading…]

5. Duke denies it will build a coal ash landfill at Lee, even though draft permit allows it

The line is easy to miss. On Page 2 of a highly technical 53-page document involving Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee plant, are four words: “new lined ash landfill.”

Those four words, inserted in a draft wastewater discharge permit issued by the NC Department of Environmental Quality, could  come back to haunt the people of Goldsboro and those living downstream of the plant. There was never supposed to be a new landfill at Lee plant, which sits along the flood-prone Neuse River and within the 100-year floodplain.

Just last year, the utility concluded that it needed to excavate the 5.9 million tons of ash from the basins and recycle it in the former Colon clay mine in Lee County. “Studies noted the possible risk of flooding at the plant site,” Duke said at the time, “which makes excavation the best option for long-term safe storage of the material.” [Continue reading…]

News, Special Session

McCrory signs Senate Bill 4 in less than an hour; appoints chief of staff’s wife to Industrial Commission

Gov. Pat McCrory

Well, that was fast. Less than an hour after Senate Bill 4 made it back to the Senate after it was passed in the House, Gov. Pat McCrory signed it into law and then recommended his chief of staff’s wife as an appointment to the Industrial Commission.

The outgoing governor has not responded to multiple requests for comment about the special session, and there had been speculation about whether or not he would sign legislation that came from the surprise fourth special session of the year.

House Speaker Tim Moore made the announcement that the bill was signed. The bill will create a bipartisan Board of Elections and ethics agency, reestablish partisan elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, modify the appellate court process and allow McCrory to fill a vacancy on the Industrial Commission.

Yolanda Stith’s name was put forth a short time later in the Senate session. She is currently the Executive Director at North Carolina Association Long Term Care Facilities and the wife of Thomas Stith, McCrory’s chief of staff. She was previously a lobbyist.

Democrats steadfastly voted against Senate Bill 4. They also voiced their opposition and concern about everything from the timing and the power grabs to partisan judicial elections and adding a layer of appeal.

Senators and Representatives also spoke boldly about their disdain for the special session as a whole. Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, said it was not democracy at work, but despotism.

“The only disaster relief we seek now is to save ourselves from this disastrous legislature,” he said. “The voters did not send us here to re-litigate events from 40 years ago. We’re not here to exact revenge on each other nor expand our powers.”

Neither the House nor Senate have adjourned yet.

Commentary, Special Session

The startling dishonesty of the power grabbers

One of the most striking things about the unprecedented power grabbing currently underway at the General Assembly is the dishonesty of some of the people leading the offensive effort.

Case in point is House Rules Chair David Lewis, who as we reported this week, started the disaster relief session claiming that House leaders were being as “transparent as they can” when Lewis and other lawmakers had signed a letter two days before calling for another special session for all the power grabbing.

Lewis was simply not telling the truth—and he lied again Thursday defending the proposal to reduce the number of political jobs in state government that serve at the pleasure of the governor from 1,500 to 300.

Lewis and his Republicans colleagues increased the number of political jobs from 500 to 1,500 in 2013 after McCrory took office.   Here is Lewis’ justification for reducing the number now,  as reported by the News & Observer.

We have worked to modernize state government and the high number of exemptions, not used by the current governor, are being restored to a number and level that is consistent with the authority granted to past administrations,” said House Rules Chairman David Lewis, who sponsored the bill.

So slashing the number of political jobs is not a big deal according to Lewis, because McCrory hasn’t used the additional positions.

That is simply not true. The N&O again.

And McCrory has actually used much of his current appointment power, with about 1,400 positions currently designated as exempt from civil service protections.

Got that? Lewis defended his proposal to limit Governor Roy Cooper’s ability to hire his own people by intentionally misstating how many political hires McCrory made.

The offensive last minute special session to thwart the will of the voters is bad enough.  Legislative leaders ought to at least have the guts to own up to what they are doing and why they are doing it—and stop lying about it.