NC GOP Strip Powers from New Governor -part 2

“There’s probably no better time than to deal with it in the present,” Republican Rep. Bert Jones said of the judicial elections provision.

Democrats said it was an attempt by the GOP to cling to power a week after the Republican incumbent conceded.

“I really fear that we have harmed our reputation and integrity this week,” said Rep. Billy Richardson, a Democrat.

Republicans gained power of both legislative chambers in 2010 for the first time in more than a century, and they have veto-proof majorities, holding 108 of 170 seats even though the state has been more closely divided in recent statewide and federal elections.

North Carolina is a presidential battleground state that Barack Obama won in 2008 by just over 14,000 votes. Four years later, Mitt Romney edged Obama by about 92,000 votes. Donald Trump won in November.

GOP legislators have been able to expand their majorities thanks to approving redistricting maps in 2011. But nearly 30 of those legislative districts were struck down last summer. A federal court has directed updated maps be approved by March 15.

Cooper ran on a platform of defeating Republicans’ agenda, saying he would work to repeal a law known as House Bill 2 that limits LGBT rights.

“Once more, the courts will have to clean up the mess the legislature made, but it won’t stop us from moving North Carolina forward,” Cooper said in a statement late Friday.

Republicans pointed to past sessions of the General Assembly, when it was dominated by Democrats. Democrats stripped the powers of the first and only GOP lieutenant governor of the 20th Century in the late 1980s. But Democrats said there’s been no such widespread effort to limit the power of an incoming executive before he took office in such a session.

Still, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said, “just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional.”

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Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Follow her at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP and read more of her work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/

McCrory sticks with GOP, diminishing successor 

BY EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press

RALEIGH — The last significant act of outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s tempestuous administration has been to go along with GOP legislators and sign into law at least one quickly put together bill that will diminish the power of his Democratic successor.

McCrory must still decide whether to sign a second bill passed by a Republican-dominated General Assembly that has repeatedly tugged the man who campaigned in 2012 as Charlotte’s moderate former mayor into hard-right turf. Lawmakers’ veto-proof majorities since 2013 and the uncompetitive election districts they drew in 2011 have allowed legislative Republicans to ignore Democratic viewpoints and sometimes McCrory’s desires.

McCrory’s years have been marked by political battles between the governor, entrenched legislators, and Democrats fighting for their priorities in a state where political opinions remain evenly divided.

Here are some of the flashpoints of McCrory’s term:

LGBT RIGHTS AND BATHROOMS

McCrory became the national face of a state law focused on limiting LGBT protections. He opted against calling legislators into a special session to overturn a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance allowing transgender people to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify. But lawmakers took the initiative anyway, saying they were protecting women and girls from predators masquerading as transgender to enter bathrooms and shower stalls.

McCrory signed the resulting law, which limited protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and reaffirmed that local governments can’t require area businesses to pay a minimum wage higher than the statewide minimum wage. Major companies, conventions, musicians and sports leagues reacted by shunning North Carolina, costing jobs and millions of dollars in revenues.

The U.S. Justice Department sued the state and its public university system. McCrory never quit defending the law. About two-thirds of voters said they opposed it, according to exit polls. McCrory was narrowly defeated last month by Democrat Roy Cooper, the governor-elect, who opposed it.

VOTING RIGHTS

In mid-2013, McCrory signed into law a sweeping change in voting law. It required voters to show one of six types of photo IDs deemed valid, curtailed early voting, eliminated same-day registration and ended voters’ ability to cast out-of-precinct provisional ballots in their home counties.

McCrory focused on the photo ID requirement as a common-sense condition to ensure election integrity. The Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared in July the law was carefully crafted to make it harder for blacks to vote. A three-judge panel wrote that “the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.”

A separate federal court panel declared last month that more than two dozen of the legislative districts lawmakers drew for themselves were illegal racial gerrymanders. The court ruled legislators so diminished minority voting power to favor of Republican candidates that new elections are required next year rather than 2018.

ENVIRONMENT

McCrory spent nearly 30 years working for Duke Energy, now the country’s largest electricity company. Questions over whether his loyalties to his long-time employer were at odds with the public good have focused on the aftermath of a coal-ash spill into the Dan River.

Coal ash is the byproduct of decades of burning coal to generate electricity, and it contains toxic materials including arsenic and mercury. The February 2014 coal ash spill prompted state legislation to force Duke Energy to excavate or close off its dumps.

REACTION BY OPPONENTS

Democrats and allied liberal groups reacted forcefully to conservative policies like refusing federally-funded Medicaid expansion, cutting unemployment benefits and spending taxpayer dollars for tuition to private schools.

The NAACP and other critics responded with unprecedented protests and civil disobedience, which led to the arrest of more than 1,000 demonstrators in over four years.

Fifty-six people were arrested in the latest round of demonstrations on Thursday and Friday, General Assembly police said.

Early on, McCrory claimed in 2013 he mingled among the protesters, telling a reporter he went “out in the crowd all the time.” Days later, his spokeswoman said that wasn’t true.

SOCIAL ISSUES

McCrory pledged during a gubernatorial debate in 2012 that if he were elected he would not sign any new abortion restrictions into law.

Seven months after taking office, he signed into law a measure that invited standards for abortion clinics on par with outpatient surgical centers, a change critics worried would force them to close. When abortion rights advocates demonstrated outside his official residence hours later, McCrory personally delivered them a plate of cookies.

Protesters called it condescending. McCrory also signed laws extending the abortion waiting period to three days from one and forcing physicians who perform certain late-term abortions to send ultrasound images to state officials.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio.

The Latest: Lawmakers adjourn session curbing gov’s powers

RALEIGH — The Latest on efforts by the North Carolina General Assembly to shift or reduce powers of the new incoming Democratic governor (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

The North Carolina legislature has adjourned its special session in what Democrats and hundreds of protesters says is an unconstitutional power grab by GOP legislators unhappy with the incoming Democratic governor.

Republicans call it a lawful effort to rebalance the branches of government before a new administration takes office. Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper takes office in two weeks.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed two bills — one has already been signed by outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory. It merges the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission into one panel and prevents Cooper from putting a Democratic majority on the state elections board in 2017.

The other bill presented to McCrory would force Cooper’s Cabinet choices to face Senate confirmation.

Before adjourning, lawmakers confirmed a state commission appointment for the wife of McCrory’s chief of staff.

More than 50 protesters were arrested Thursday and Friday for disturbing House and Senate floor sessions.

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3 p.m.

North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has quickly signed into law a GOP-backed bill that would strip the incoming Democratic governor of some of his powers.

Documents from General Assembly staff confirm the outgoing governor signed the measure Friday afternoon, shortly after the legislature’s final vote. Democrats argue this and another piece of legislation is a power grab by the GOP after McCrory lost the gubernatorial election to Democrat Roy Cooper, who takes office Jan. 1.

The law merges the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission into one board comprised equally of Democrats and Republicans. The previous state elections board law would have allowed Cooper to put a majority of Democrats on the panel.

The law would also make elections for appellate court judgeships officially partisan again.

Another bill nearing final legislative approval would force Cooper’s Cabinet choices to be subject to Senate confirmation.

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1:40 p.m.

At least two people have been led away from inside the North Carolina Legislative Building after disruptions caused the state Senate to halt debate on a measure that would shift some powers to Republicans.

Police made the arrests inside the Senate gallery Friday after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest warned the audience above the Senate floor to remain quiet. The Senate resumed debate 30 minutes after the entire gallery was cleared.

General Assembly police say 16 people were arrested earlier Friday during disruptions while the House debated another bill.

Opponents of Republican policies have been demonstrating at the legislature about proposals to reduce the power of Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, who defeated GOP incumbent Pat McCrory last month.

The legislature wrapped up work on one bill that would make appellate court elections partisan and deny Cooper the ability to put a majority of Democrats on the State Board of Elections.

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12:10 p.m.

At least 10 protesters have been arrested in North Carolina after they disrupted debate over Republican-led legislation that they say will strip powers from the incoming Democratic governor.

House leaders cleared the chamber’s gallery Friday while lawmakers discussed a measure that would erase Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s ability to appoint a Democratic majority on the State Board of Elections. The bill also would change the way appellate court judges are elected that could favor Republicans.

At least 10 people were led away with wrists bound in plastic ties as other protesters chanted “all political power comes from the people.” Police took some away after they continued to lead vocal protests within the rotunda of the Legislative Building. More than 150 demonstrators remained behind.

General Assembly police arrested 17 protesters Thursday.

The House resumed their debate and passed the measure on a party-line vote.

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11:50 a.m.

North Carolina legislators have resumed debate on Republican legislation that would shift or reduce powers of the governor as a new Democrat takes the job in just two weeks.

The full House took up a Senate bill Friday that would erase Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s ability to appoint a Democratic majority of the five-member State Board of Elections, as current law allows. Cooper narrowly defeated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last month.

The measure also would make elections for appellate court races officially partisan again. A registered Democrat won a key Supreme Court race this fall, ending nearly 20 years of GOP control of the court.

Democratic Rep. Graig Meyer says Republicans are trying to overturn the will of the voters with the legislation. GOP lawmakers disagree.

Senate committees also have debated a measure that would force Cooper’s Cabinet secretaries to receive Senate confirmation.

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4:50 a.m.

North Carolina Republican lawmakers facing a new Democratic governor on Jan. 1 are nearly done taking steps to reduce his power despite demonstrations and threats of litigation.

The GOP-controlled legislature prepared Friday to complete an extraordinary special session and approve bills that would place checks upon Democrat Roy Cooper. The outgoing attorney general edged Republican incumbent Pat McCrory in their election last month.

Legislation that already cleared one chamber scaled back the team Cooper can bring into office, require the Senate’s approval for Cabinet secretaries and erase the governor’s ability to shape elections boards statewide.

The bills advanced despite raucous protests from hundreds at the legislature opposed to the legislation that led to at least 16 arrests.

McCrory would have to decide whether to sign any final bills.

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