The 14th of December of Phil Berger
In case there was any remaining doubt, the Republican majority in the NC General Assembly have now made perfectly clear their gleeful contempt for democracy. The measures they are pushing through in this latest special session, most notably S.B.4, are a naked power grab with the specific and unmistakable intent of nullifying last month’s election.
To be sure, not all of the proposed changes in the bills introduced late yesterday are inherently anti-democratic (with a small “d”). Most notably, eliminating partisan control in the state and county Boards of Elections would be a laudable reform. Unfortunately, the plan in S.B.4 would only erect a veneer of “bi-partisanship” without establishing truly independent, non-partisan oversight of our elections. Likewise, while the attempt to strip an incoming Governor’s authority over appointments reeks of partisan manipulation, that doesn’t mean that the existing allocation of appointment authority is sacrosanct.
Regardless of the merits, these are not matters that should be resolved in a hasty special session. These are significant changes to the structure of state government, with potentially far-ranging implications. And there is no pressing emergency, save for the inconvenient fact that the people of North Carolina have elected Democrat Roy Cooper to replace Republican Pat McCrory in the Governor’s mansion.
The fact is that the Republicans, having gerrymandered the General Assembly to give them veto-proof control, can and will pass whatever bills they want. Some of the more egregious over-reaches may eventually be invalidated in court (at no small expense, financial and reputational, to this state). That they opted to move these bills in a cloak and dagger fashion, rather than waiting until the regular term, only shows that they feel some residual pang of shame.
This may be the last best hope for the people of North Carolina–Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike–who want a state government that actually represents us and addresses our needs. We need to raise our voices, on the phone and in the street, and let the General Assembly know that we will not stand for legislation by ambush.