Bill would curb Cooper's appointment powers

Posted December 14, 2016
Updated December 15, 2016

— No bill slated to be considered during an unexpected special session this week has more political overtones than a measure designed to undercut Gov.-elect Roy Cooper's ability to appoint members of his administration and oversee other parts of government.

Among its provisions, House Bill 17:

  • reduces the number of exempt positions under Cooper's supervision from 1,500 to 300. Exempt positions are those that a governor can hire or fire at will, either because they are managers or because their job is somewhat political in nature. Although former Gov. Bev Perdue had roughly 500 such positions under her control, GOP lawmakers gave Gov. Pat McCrory 1,500 to work with.
  • puts the Department of Public Instruction more firmly under the supervision of the superintendent of public instruction, a position elected separately from the governor. Republican Mark Johnson ousted Democrat June Atkinson in this year's election.
  • gives Johnson at least 70 "exempt" positions, beefing up his power in the same way it would trim Cooper's. The bill would also gives the new superintendent more flexibility in managing the state's education budget.
  • removes gubernatorial appointments to the various boards of trustees that run each campus in the University of North Carolina system. Those appointments would be would be transferred to the General Assembly.
  • requires Senate confirmation for gubernatorial cabinet appointments. Although the state constitution allows this, the legislature hasn't exercised this power in recent memory.

The measure drew howls of protest from Democrats, who said that Republicans who run the House and the Senate are exacting retribution for Cooper's defeat of McCrory, who lost a bitterly fought campaign by just more than 10,000 votes.

"This is an unprecedented, shameful and cowardly power grab from Republicans," said Jamal Little, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party. "After losing the Governor’s Office, the GOP-controlled General Assembly is attempting to hold on to the power that voters took away from them. Make no mistake, the legislation we are seeing today are attempts from Republicans to usurp power from Gov.-elect Roy Cooper after losing the election."

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, House Rules Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, said that the General Assembly was going to "reassert its authority in areas that have previously been delegated to the executive branch."

Cooper himself did not respond to the bill Wednesday but took to Twitter to suggest lawmakers "should focus on higher teacher pay, better wages for working North Carolinians and repealing HB 2."

Robin Hayes, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, sent an email to reporters that referred back to moves by Gov. Jim Hunt to purge state government of Republican appointees in the late 1970s.

"After an extremely close series of elections that inflamed passions on both sides of the aisle, the Republican legislature has proposed something we can all agree on – removing the hyper-partisanship out of our elections administration in order to solve future election concerns in a bipartisan manner," Hayes wrote.


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  • Anna Temple Dec 15, 2016
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    The games adults play to teach their children integrity and leadership. No wonder all the kids think they deserve a trophy. Shameful.

  • Holly Atkins Dec 15, 2016
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    The only difference when it happens is that the democrats will get to say the republicans SHOWED them how to do it!

    They obviously don't want to be re-elected and are so short-sighted by self-pity. Nice to see you can show bi-partisan ways GOP!! *eye roll*

  • Howard Roark Dec 15, 2016
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    I'm not a dem nor a liberal. I've never been happier to be unaffiliated.

    However, this type of political maneuvering undermines the entire system. Dems won the seat. Now republicans are diluting it's power, following a term in which they expanded it's power under McCrory. If you don't see the problem there, then people like you are what's wrong with the voter base. I don't approve it when dems do it, nor do I when republicans do it.

    All this will do is continue to set par for the course. If and when dems take over, you can bet your tail they'll just do the same. And then you'll be whining like a little brat.

  • Ben Mackie Dec 15, 2016
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    If you think this country's citizens are moving more Republican, you must not like numbers, facts and statistics, but we already knew that.

    All the Republican party has is destroying the political process through political maneuvering. Gerrymandering, the electoral college, usurping power from other branches of government. It's disgusting and I highly doubt this is the type of government that the founders had in mind.

  • Kristin Byrne Dec 15, 2016
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    And if the Democrats had pulled a stunt like this, we'd be drowning in Republican tears. It's wrong, no matter which party does it. Don't like the outcome of an election? Get out and vote in 4 years. That's how you make a difference.

  • Elizabeth Hawkins Dec 15, 2016
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    Poetic Justice!

  • Cherrie Fausnaught Dec 15, 2016
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    Nobody will ever trust the US elections system again after this election cycle. How can they? What good does it do to vote when the majority doesn't matter and a party can just force their agenda anyway? We have proof of Russian influence, proof of attempted voter fraud, proof of poll workers (on both sides!) tampering with the system...... The US elections system is completely messed up!

  • Chris Cole Dec 15, 2016
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    So you don't think this is a cry from the Republicans?

  • Sharon Johnson Dec 15, 2016
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    This is nothing more than McCory's revenge for losing.

  • Xander Bogaerts Dec 15, 2016
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    Pathetic, I suppose NCGOP has enjoyed the backlash from HB2, and are employing a similar game plan with this latest partisan useless bills. This will also be remembered next year when the elections are in.