As expected, the legislature overrode Governor Cooper’s vetoes of the two bills highlighted in last week’s Legislative Update. The Governor filed suit on Wednesday over Senate Bill 68, which combines the state ethics board and board of elections and changes the composition and method of appointing members of the combined board. This is a new version of a law that the court threw out in 2016. The details are convoluted, but the heart of the matter is that both bills attempt to take away the governor’s control of boards that are under the executive branch. On Friday, a three-judge panel issued a restraining order that prevents the law from going into effect until May 10. The Governor expressed confidence that this law will also be struck down. For more details,
The legislature also overrode the Governor’s veto of House Bill 239 that reduces the number of judges on the state court of appeals from 15 to 12. This move was prompted by the fact that three Republican judges on the court will reach mandatory retirement age this year, and without the new law the Governor would appoint replacements to complete their terms.
But something astonishing happened during the interval between the Governor’s veto and the legislature’s vote to override. Outraged by the crass power grab, Judge Douglas McCullough, a Republican member of the state Court of Appeals, abruptly resigned early, stating: “I did not want my legacy to be the elimination of a seat and the impairment of a court that I have served on.” Governor Cooper quickly appointed John Arrowood to the court, who will be the first openly gay judge to serve. For more information, see: http://www.rawstory.com/2017/04/republican-north-carolina-judge-resigns-and-slams-the-gop-on-the-way-out/.
The NCGA rushed through 200 bills last week. The House had changed their ‘rules’ recently so that the House bills related to Constitutional changes are not subject to the crossover deadline – which helps the ERA bill (H102) but is scary otherwise. “Lawmakers have put into play at least six proposed amendments to the state Constitution,” according to “With Closet Cleaned at General Assembly, Issues Still Remain,” 4/29/17, at https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/north-carolina/articles/2017-04-29/with-closet-cleaned-at-general-assembly-issues-still-remain
On the other hand, the two bad abortion bills introduced this session have ‘died’ because there was no action on any of them before the April 27 crossover deadline. But since there are ways to revive seemingly dead bills, we must continue to remain alert until the legislature adjourns.
In a change of rules a few days before crossover, ERA bill H102 joined S85 in being exempt from the crossover deadline. Both bills will be active until the end of the session. Advocates should continue to call the members of the House and Senate Rules Committees urging that H102 and S85 be heard in committee. They have received hundreds of calls so far! Take action at http://www.nc4era.org/alerts.html.
Also included in North Carolina NOW Legislative Update #13 – 30 April 2017 is bill tracking, including which bills did not make the crossover deadline following the normal path for a bill.