Here is a summary from Politico:
The state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the bills this week during a special session. The new laws reduce the number of positions the governor can hire and fire at will from 1,500 to 300, strip the governor’s party of the power to control the state board of elections, require legislative approval of gubernatorial cabinet appointments, and move the power to appoint trustees for the University of North Carolina to the legislature.
The first sounds like a good change, as in general the professional bureaucracy in American politics should be more powerful, as it is in Western Europe. The second clause — power over elections — sounds like a simple power grab, but can I say I find it an inferior arrangement to vest this responsibility with the legislature? No, and note the new deal gives each party equal representation on the election commission (otherwise the Democrats would hold a majority). The trustee appointment change I find it hard to get worked up about, though it does seem to me more naturally the prerogative of the executive, but the state constitution gives trustee appointment rights to the legislature.
How about “require legislative approval of gubernatorial cabinet appointments,” which sounds pretty severe?
Well, check out the North Carolina state constitution: “Appointments. The Governor shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of a majority of the Senators appoint all officers whose appointments are not otherwise provided for.” [Later sections seem to cover the “appointments…otherwise provided for.”] Furthermore, this seems like pretty standard practice at various levels of American government.
Perhaps the Republicans have good legal advice, and are likely to win this in the courts, as the source behind the last link is suggesting. As a commentator, a good starting question is whether you have in fact read the North Carolina state constitution.
Overall the story seems to be that the legislature is — within the provisions of the state constitution — seizing more power for the legislature. (You don’t have to like that, given some of the other Republican stances, but don’t confuse the different issues here.) Don’t presidents and governors try to do the same? Succeed in doing the same? Is it perhaps worth criticizing the state constitution, rather than just condemning the Republicans for exercising constitutional powers? Here is a link outlining many of the power grabs in previous North Carolina history, including by the Democrats.
Have your feelings about the filibuster changed as of late?
Is it so much worse if such shenanigans are done in a lame duck period? Would it have been so awful if Clinton had won the presidential election and TPP had passed during the lame duck session, as many people were talking about? Or if the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court had been approved? Do we all condemn the flood of “midnight regulations” that come during each federal lame duck session?
I am very willing to consider limiting the power of lame duck sessions. And I am very willing to believe that the North Carolina legislature made moves in the wrong direction from a utilitarian and also public legitimacy point of view. Furthermore, I am also no expert in North Carolina constitutional law and I would gladly be set straight if I am overlooking some relevant facts on these issues.
In the meantime, I don’t quite see this as a coup d’etat, it seems like a pretty traditional power grab within established constitutional structures, it’s not the Republicans heralding the end of constitutional government in the United States, and I’m not sure that the critics are being entirely consistent in applying the principles articulated in their shrillness. The critical commentary here really does need to up its game. If your argument is simply “I don’t want groups I disagree with to take more power through legitimate means,” well by all means say so!
As for my summary view, the legislative actions do seem unwise to me, they seem to be coming at an especially fraught time, I don’t favor all of the other policy preferences of this legislature, and I think they are extending what is already a series of unwise precedents.
Here are my favorite things North Carolina, none of them refer to politics.