The devil is in the details.
We continue seeing the truth of this statement as news trickles out of Raleigh this week. The latest Republican stunt: stripping the governor of his appointment powers. Taken individually, the bills that this legislature passed to undermine the other branches of our state government are horrible; collectively, they’re appalling.
This recent maneuver is not a standalone act; it’s the big finish after years of reconstructing the way North Carolina government operates. The governor of North Carolina has always been rather weak vis-à-vis neighboring executives. For the most part, he or she can sign or veto legislation, and — heretofore — appoint members of boards and commissions. But no more.
Buried in an amendment to alter the elections board is the following text: “The legislative powers of the State government shall control the powers, duties, responsibilities, appointments and terms of office of any board or commission prescribed by general law.” This proposed amendment, masquerading as an adjustment to the elections board, fundamentally reshapes the North Carolina state constitution. This is not a random piece of legislation — it’s the document with which all other legislation must comport.
Though galling, this should not be surprising. The GOP in this state has consistently undermined centuries-long standards of separated powers. The “conservative” party ought to, I don’t know, conserve the way things have been for years. Instead, they would rather grasp for as much power as possible while they still command supermajorities in Raleigh.
They couldn’t force through all their earlier power grabs without pushback from the courts, so they went about amending the judiciary. From redrawing judicial districts, adjusting the number of judges and making the races partisan, they have tried everything they can to bend the laws of this state to their will. Now, instead of finding judges to interpret their bills favorably, they’re rewriting the constitution itself to give the leadership cabal in Raleigh all the power.
Individual legislators answer to a tiny number of constituents. The governor answers to over 10 million North Carolinians. It is an affront to all of us that the legislature is snatching powers rightfully enshrined to the governor. Becki Gray, from the conservative John Locke Foundation, tweeted the following:
Republicans would be wise, when considering changes to the election system, to ask what if democrats had full control of the #NCGA and republicans held the governor’s office. Would it still be a good idea? #ncga #2018shortsession #becarefulwhatyouwishfor
— Becki Gray (@beckigray) June 25, 2018
Of course it wouldn’t be a good idea. The NCGOP can’t win playing fairly, so they’re just going to rewrite the rules. Voters should reject this proposal on the ballot this November.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.