Raleigh, N.C. — The state Senate gave key approval Wednesday to legislation that would fire all current members of several oversight and advisory boards.
Senate Bill 10 passed its second reading by a 32-17 vote. A final vote is expected Thursday, and it would then go to the House.
Introduced in Senate Rules Committee only Tuesday morning, the bill would effectively fire all members of the Utilities Commission, Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources Commission, Lottery Commission and Wildlife Resources Commission.
Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers would then be able to reappoint board members who agree with their philosophy, essentially clearing out Democrats and other dissenters whose terms haven't yet expired.
The bill would also abolish several other boards and commissions, including the Charter School Advisory Committee, the Lottery Oversight Commission, the Turnpike Authority and the Board of Correction, and would eliminate 12 special Superior Court judgeships.
"This is injecting politics into boards and commissions where it is unnecessary. In fact, it's detrimental to the state and to the people," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, who offered an amendment to scale back the scope of the bill.
"To wholesale eliminate dozens and dozens of people with all of their expertise and all of their knowledge is just bad policy," Stein said. "Let's pass a good bill, a good government bill, one that promotes government efficiency and not one that is a crass political power play."
Bill sponsor Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, said the proposal is geared to promote efficiency and noted that current members of various commissions could reapply for positions.
"You've got a new team in place, and they deserve their players," Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said, adding the former Gov. Jim Hunt twice swept out appointees of his Republican predecessors.
Senate Republicans handily defeated Stein's amendment, as well as amendments proposed by Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, to limit conflicts of interest on the state commissions and by Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, to remove the provision eliminating the judgeships.
Even Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, questioned the constitutionality of eliminating judgeships, but Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said the courts could decide the issue once the bill had passed.