Current North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has signed two bills that will drastically reduce the powers of his successor, incoming Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper.House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 4 were introduced by Republican lawmakers in the state legislature on Wednesday. Both bills passed in their respective chambers the following day by large margins. McCrory signed SB 4 on Friday and HB 17 [yesterday].
Even by 2016 standards, Republican antics in North Carolina have pushed democratic norms to the breaking point. Yesterday, the party added a capstone to an indefensible, maximalist display of raw partisanship.GOP officials began their power grab a few years ago by carefully drawing district lines, later deemed illegal, to ensure that Republican power would continue. They then passed onerous voter-suppression laws, further intended to ensure that Republican power would continue. And when North Carolinians had the audacity to elect a Democratic governor anyway, GOP officials launched a "legislative coup" to undermine the new governor's powers before he takes office, which is now state law, all in the hopes of trying to ensure more Republican power.
McCrory, the only incumbent governor in the nation to lose this year, conceded that some provisions of the new legislation are "wrong and shortsighted," but the outgoing governor signed the bill into law anyway.As we recently discussed, just six days ago, Republican officials announced that the General Assembly would gather for a special session, ostensibly to work on disaster relief for hurricane victims -- but hurricane victims were not foremost on GOP lawmakers' minds. Instead, Republicans scurried to weaken the incoming Democratic governor before he can even begin.Of particular interest is a provision related to political appointees -- which led to one of the most amazing political arguments of the year.Before Pat McCrory took office, North Carolina's governor had the authority to appoint a few hundred officials to various posts in state government. Once Republicans took control of the legislature and the governor's office, that number swelled to 1,500 appointees, making it easier for McCrory to put more of his like-minded allies in positions of authority.With Cooper poised to take office, Republicans are now shrinking that total down to 425, which not only limits the incoming governor's power, it means more than 1,000 McCrory appointees will still be in powerful government posts.By way of a defense, Senate President Phil Berger (R) said in a statement, "Why does it make sense to enable the mass political firing of people who have been doing a wonderful job for the state?"Think about that for a minute. Republican legislators like McCrory's team, they think McCrory's team is doing a "wonderful" job, so they're rigging the state government so most of McCrory's team will remain in place, even after voters removed McCrory from office.To appreciate how ridiculous this is, imagine if voters reject Donald Trump in 2020, prompting the Republican-led Congress to quickly pass new laws that keep most of Trump's political appointees in office, indefinitely, because GOP lawmakers think Trump administration officials are doing a "wonderful" job.That would be seen as absurd, but it's precisely what McCrory and North Carolina Republicans have now done.Democracy isn't supposed to work this way, at least not in the United States.