Gov Cooper Calls For Special Session To Redraw Maps, NCGA Says Nope

Jun 8, 2017

Republican David Lewis reading a motion on the floor of the North Carolina House.
Credit Screen Grab via WRAL

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that 28 state legislative districts were illegal racial gerrymanders they made one thing clear, North Carolina's political maps must be redrawn. What they didn't say is when. They've kicked that decision back to a lower court.

It also kicked off the latest power struggle between Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

This latest row started on Wednesday, when Governor Cooper made a surprise announcement. "I'm calling for a special session of the legislature to draw new maps for the General Assembly elections."

To begin basically right away, 2:00 p.m. Thursday to be specific. And, Cooper said it would last for a very specific amount of time. "The special session I'm calling will last 14 days because our state law says that the legislature has 14 days to enact new maps before the court can step in," and draw the maps on their own. This would, Cooper said, start that clock.

But it's a bit more complicated than that.

The General Assembly is already in regular session. The special session would run concurrently, which Cooper admitted was unusual but not unheard of. Though he did not give any examples of when it had happened before.

And when the official proclamation made it over to the General Assembly, Republican leaders there made clear they don’t want it to happen at all. When the proclamation was to be read in the North Carolina House, the clerk got out just two words, "Mr. Speaker," before he was cut off by Speaker Tim Moore.

He quickly called on Republican David Lewis who challenged the constitutionality of Cooper's desired special session. "Under the North Carolina constitution, the governor may call the General Assembly back to special session, only under extraordinary occasion and by and with the advice and consent of the Council of State."

Lewis then stated these conditions have not been met. No extraordinary occasion since the General Assembly is already at work. No meaningful consent from the Council of State. "Thus the governor's attempt to call us into special session to conduct redistricting is invalid and unconstitutional."

Speaker Moore agreed and after a quick procedural move the call to special session was killed.

A nearly identical scenario played out in the state Senate as well.

So this leaves us exactly where this story began, we know the maps must be redrawn. The question of when is still in the hands of the court.