Sessions on Sessions on Sessions: A Wild (and Unfortunate) End to 2016
The last few weeks of 2016 saw a flurry of legislative activity that included undemocratic power grabs and the failure to repeal HB2. While the courts are still sorting out the mess that politicians created, we wanted to take a look back at the last few weeks of 2016.
It all started when Pat McCrory called a special session to help victims of Hurricane Matthew. And immediately following the conclusion of that special session, the NCGA called for another special session with an unclear agenda.
This session was an undemocratic power grab by legislative Republicans seeking to overturn the will of the voters and strip Governor Roy Cooper of power. Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) called it a "legislative ambush" in an op-ed he wrote about the day of the power grab. We at Progress NC Action stood with protestors gathered inside the legislative building chanting and showing off signs that opposed the power grab.
The NCGA stripped power from the Board of Education and gave the State Superintendent a lot more power. No surprise, he's a Republican. But, what might be surprising is that the Republican Board of Education Chairman, Bill Cobey, blasted the brazen power grab and is challenging the law in court.
Politicians also took away Gov. Cooper's authority to appoint members of his administration. While McCrory was able to fill 1500 state agency jobs, Cooper is now only allowed to fill 425. And, the State Board of Elections will not be controlled by Democrats, but by Republicans, because of a restructuring that means Democrats and Republicans alternate each year. The big issue here? Democrats have odd-numbered years, so Republicans are running the board in every major election year. The new system also sets up gridlock that will likely prevent changes to improve our elections process.
In response to this unprecedented and undemocratic power grab, Governor Roy Cooper is challenging these new laws in court. And politicians in Raleigh don't have a great track record in the courts.
Cooper will fight against each of the laws described above, in order to protect the will of the voters and the Office of the Governor. Roy Cooper's attorney Jim Phillips stated "the separation of powers clause plainly and clearly does not allow the General Assembly to take that much control over the execution of the laws from the Governor and lodge it within itself" while presenting his case. A judge has already issued an injunction against SB4, the board of elections changes, and we expect additional legal challenges in the coming days.
And finally, NCGA called another special session to repeal HB2 just days before Christmas, or so they said.
Only days after the power grab special session, politicians convened for the 5th special session of the year. They said that if Charlotte repealed their non-discrimination ordinance, they'd repeal HB2. However, after Charlotte complied, politicians reneged on their deal and refused to offer a clean bill to fully repeal HB2. After 10 hours of "hurry up and wait" lawmakers adjourned their session without ever voting on fully repealing HB2. Protesters who had filled the chamber all day shouted "Shame!" as the session ended.
Not exactly the best way to end the year. Bitter partisan fighting, undemocratic power grabs, and the complete failure to repeal HB2. Let's hope 2017 has something better in store!