Police Arrest Protesters At North Carolina State Capitol Building

Dec 15, 2016
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

At North Carolina's state capitol building, protesters chanted. Several were arrested. They were protesting against a set of bills Republican lawmakers are trying to pass, last-minute measures that would weaken the power of the incoming governor, who's a Democrat. All year long, North Carolina has epitomized many of the nation's political divides, and it was one of the most contested states in the November election.

Joining us now from Raleigh is Jeff Tiberii. He's a political reporter with member station WUNC. And Jeff, what are the Republican lawmakers actually proposing?

JEFF TIBERII, BYLINE: Well, at this point, they have set forth about two dozen bills, but the two that are of the most contentious - a deal with state elections boards and a deal with appointment powers. And essentially what they're trying to do is strip the incoming Democratic governor of some of his authority and some of, you know, the appointments of the powers that he generally has or she generally has.

Under one of the proposals, 1,500 staff positions would be cut to 300. The governor would no longer have control over the state election board. And on top of that, governor's cabinet choices would have to go before the state Senate to receive confirmation.

SIEGEL: Tell us a bit about these protests today and the arrests.

TIBERII: This is nothing new in terms of hundreds - if in recent years, thousands - of people coming to the legislature to protest some of the policies that have been set forth. This all came about because of a special session that was called to give disaster relief to victims of hurricane flooding and wildfires in the western part of the state. But after they passed that unanimously, lawmakers entered into an unscheduled fourth special session. And that took place yesterday.

Today there have been hundreds of people in and around the general assembly, chanting, voices echoing through the hallways. We've seen so far at least 20 arrests. And these are folks that say this is - you know, this is not legitimate government. There is a lack of transparency here. And what the Republicans supermajorities are doing quite simply is an 11th hour power grab.

SIEGEL: And what happens next here? First of all, do the Republicans have the votes to approve what you - what is - what dissenters call a power grab? And if so, what happens?

TIBERII: Well, it's a good question. At this point, we have seen - there are two controversial bills. One is in each chamber, and we've seen chambers advance these bills. They have enough votes to pass them, but there is a measure that advanced in the House on Thursday, and it didn't advance by 72 votes, which means that it's not a veto-proof majority at this point of support, which means that one of these bills where they are proposing taking away executive authority now goes to the executive. That is a Republican - lame duck Republican Governor Pat McCrory. We will see if he in fact signs this. I mean that's a little bit of a wrinkle looking ahead, you know? He's perhaps a Republican first and a governor second.

The - you know, the Republicans say that they are in good standing here, that constitutionally what they're doing is what they're allowed to do. Democrats have essentially promised that there will be legal challenges to this, and the attorney general, who happens to be Roy Cooper, the governor-elect, said this morning that if the lawmakers do anything he deems unconstitutional, that he'll see them in court.

SIEGEL: Well, it all sounds very dramatic and very complicated. Thanks, Jeff.

TIBERII: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Jeff Tiberii in Raleigh, N.C. He is a political reporter for member station WUNC. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.