News, Special Session

Gov. McCrory will sign HB17, stripping next governor of various powers, appointments

Governor Pat McCrory will sign N.C. House Bill 17, stripping incoming Gov. Roy Cooper of a number of powers and appointments.

McCrory made the announcement late Monday in a prepared statement.

“Last week, I was extremely proud of our bipartisan effort to enact much needed relief to help our citizens recovering from Hurricane Matthew.

“I also signed legislation to reorganize a broken election process, bringing stronger ethics and a fair and transparent system to ensure consistent application of rules and procedures across our state.

“During the past week as the legislature called themselves back into session, I was actively working as your governor to protect the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government. Examples include discouraging proposed legislation moving major departments including Information Technology and Commerce outside of the governor’s authority. I also successfully worked to deter any efforts to expand the composition of our Supreme Court.

“Due to these efforts, I have come to realize that the current changes to executive authority in House Bill 17 have been greatly exaggerated by misleading TV ads, paid protesters and state and national media outlets.

“This bill enhances state employee policies, transfers school safety programs to the education department, allows our state legislature to make university trustee appointments, and clarifies the roles and organizational structure of the superintendent of public instruction and board of education – hardly extreme changes.

“My major disagreement with this bill is requiring confirmation of cabinet secretaries. This is wrong and short-sighted and needs to be resolved through the leadership skills of the governor-elect working with the legislature beginning in January. With this in mind, I will sign House Bill 17.”

 

 

News, Special Session

Incoming N.C. schools chief applauds transfer of powers to his office

Incoming DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

Incoming DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

North Carolina’s incoming secretary of public education—Winston-Salem Republican Mark Johnson—is reportedly celebrating last week’s highly controversial move by state lawmakers to shift powers from the State Board of Education to his office.

While he didn’t respond to questions for comment on the bill from his local paper, the Winston-Salem Journal reports that the corporate attorney, who boasts two years of experience teaching at West Charlotte High in Charlotte, is supportive of House Bill 17.

The GOP-sponsored bill, which predominantly limits the powers of new Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, has been approved by both the state House and Senate and has been forwarded to Gov. Pat McCrory’s office for signature.

McCrory, who has fought lawmakers in court over the governor’s powers, has not indicated whether he will support the measure, but in the meantime, Johnson seems pleased with the move.

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

Among the provisions limiting the power of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, House Bill 17 strips power over the state’s vast public education system from State Board of Education and transfers it to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

 Starting in January, that will be Johnson. The 33-year-old lawyer was two years into his first term on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education when he beat incumbent June Atkinson, a 40-year veteran of DPI. The Democrat was seeking her fourth-term. Johnson’s previous education experience includes two years in Teach For America, where he taught at West Charlotte High School.

After the bill’s passage Friday, Johnson commended lawmakers for passing “straight-forward, common-sense reforms.”

“HB 17 will help usher in an era of greater transparency at DPI by eliminating the more confusing aspects of the relationship between the N.C. superintendent and the N.C. Board of Education,” Johnson said.

“This will better serve constituents visiting Raleigh as our working relationship will be more similar to how local superintendents and their respective boards of education work together across North Carolina.”

HB17 would actually give the State Board of Education considerably less oversight of Johnson’s decisions at the Department of Public Instruction, though, than Johnson had as a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education over the district’s superintendent.

One example: hiring and firing.

HB 17 gives the state superintendent control over appointments of administrative and supervisory personnel to the staff of DPI and the state board, save four positions that the state board will continue to appoint.

Read more

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…]