Added Special Session Brings GOP Bills To Weaken Cooper

Dec 15, 2016


Updated 10 a.m.
In a flurry of filings Wednesday night, state lawmakers put forward more than two dozen bills to be taken up at an additional special session that opened Wednesday afternoon.  It's not clear how many will get hearings and pass the Republican-controlled legislature.  At least some appear aimed at handcuffing incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.  

Missing from the list was something Democrats had feared: A bill that would expand the state Supreme Court. 

Instead, a Senate bill would remove the right to appeal constitutional questions directly to the Supreme Court. It would also combine the state Board of Elections and state Ethics Commission and revive partisan elections for the Supreme Court and State Court of Appeals.

Another measure filed in the House would modify the way appointments are made to many state boards and departments. The governor would have to submit cabinet appointments for Senate approval. And the governor would lose the right to make some appointments, such as trustees in the state university system. 

Republican legislative leaders called the extra session - the fourth of this term - as lawmakers were wrapping up work on a $201 million disaster relief bill. The measure provides financial help to communities affected by this fall's flooding after Hurricane Matthew and wildfires.  

It won unanimous approval in both houses and now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory. He scheduled a bill-signing ceremony at 9 a.m. Thursday at the governor's mansion. 

With that work done, lawmakers went to work filing bills in the new special session.  A total of 19 were filed in the House before the 7 p.m. deadline. Six were filed in the Senate. 

Topics of other bills range widely - from paying holiday bonuses to teachers and state employees to calling on the NCDOT to cancel the toll-lane project on I-77 north of Charlotte. 

House Democrats were livid about the Republicans' call for the additional special session. 

"This is why people don't trust us, this is why they hate us ... because of this right here — using hurricane relief as the reason to come back to Raleigh to do a lot of things because you lost an election by 10,000 votes," Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said on the House floor, according to the Associated Press. 

Senate leader Phil Berger defended the move, saying legislative Democrats in the past used similar tactics against Republicans. 

"When we were in the minority, we would complain about these things and they would do it. They are now in the minority," Berger said, according to the AP. "It is perfectly in line with things that have been done for years in this building."