The Democrats captured the governor's house in this year's election, ousting a Republican governor over anti-transgender legislation that had caused economic boycotts. However, the legislature remains in Republican control.
So, the legislators did something they now claim they'd been meaning to do for a long time: they gutted the power of the governor's office, and transferred it to themselves.
The legislature approved a proposal along party lines Friday that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years and split partisan control of local boards of elections, as opposed to giving the governor’s party the majorities on those panels. Outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed the bill into law Friday, despite not issuing any comment on the drama wracking North Carolina politics since Wednesday.The courts will presumably be asked to rule on whether or not these changes were both legal and fair. They are certainly political hardball. They are also a product of the hostility that is certain to result when a traditional, rural population finds itself under the domineering influence of an urban elite that disdains them.
The legislature also looks poised to pass, for the first time in decades, a law requiring the governor to get approval by the state Senate for his Cabinet appointees and ending his ability to appoint members to the board of trustees of the powerful UNC school system. The bill would also drastically reduce the number of state employees the governor can directly hire and fire from 1,500 to 425.
The measures were just two of several bills the legislature considered in a last-minute, year-end special session that would reduce the governor's influence in state government, the judicial branch, the education system and elections oversight, while strengthening the GOP-dominated legislature's influence in all those areas.
Figuring out how to let the cities and countryside live the very different lives they want is going to be a tremendous political challenge for the next years. It'd be nice if the cities were each states, so we could let Federalism work. Instead, the conflicts are strongest in cases like this one, where big cities exercise a powerful influence within a state that is culturally very different overall.