If you’ve been paying attention to North Carolina politics recently, and a lot of people around the country have, then you probably know that Democrat Roy Cooper narrowly beat incumbent Republican Pat McCrory in the governor’s race despite almost every other Republican who ran in a statewide race won handily, including PEOTUS Trump. You also probably know that Republicans continue to enjoy a super majority in the House and Senate. What that means is that the legislature should be able to overcome any veto that Governor-elect Cooper throws at them.
Given that backdrop it seemed strange that the legislature, and current Gov. McCrory would be so aggressive in stripping the office of significant amounts of power before Cooper entered the picture in January. Why risk alienating the many unaffiliated voters who voted Republican by making what appears to be a “sour grapes” power grab? After all, if you can do what you want without fear of a veto stopping you why not just let the man assume his office and beat him fair and square at every turn for the next four years?
The answer to that question is being made vividly clear at the special session that was called today with the stated purpose of repealing the controversial HB2 law that has negatively impacted the state in many ways, including economically. What’s being called a “rural faction” of the GOP is trying to prevent the repeal despite an apparent deal with the city of Charlotte to do just that if the city would in turn repeal its ordinance that instigated the push for the law in the first place. This rift within the Republican Party has existed since the party took control of the legislature a couple of sessions ago, but it’s been fairly well hidden from the general public. Until now.
In the past the rift within the NCGOP has been perceived as being between “culture conservatives” and “business conservatives” but in reality it’s as much about rural versus urban. Without a united front the GOP could struggle to overcome vetoes on any issues that aren’t slam dunks across the GOP ideological spectrum, thus it is in the party leadership’s best interests to limit the governor’s power as much as possible. That way even if they don’t get everything they want, they’ve severely curtailed his administrative powers and thus they don’t HAVE to get everything they want.
And then there’s the special election that the legislators face in 2017 once a court-mandated redistricting is complete. That could result in a decline in GOP-held seats which, in turn, could erode the party’s number of seats to the point where they lose the super-majority. That makes trimming the Governor elect’s feathers now a pretty logical thing to do from their standpoint.
The result of all this is that we are set up for a very aggressive agenda from the GOP for the 2017 long session. They will want to finish what they’ve started with this fall’s special sessions, particularly their education “reforms” and their push to curtail the power of the Department of Environmental Quality. With Cooper neutered they’ll have an easier path to getting that done if all they have to do is horse-trade within their own caucus. Things could be much more complicated for them in 2018, so they’re going to get going while the getting’s good.
Buckle up folks. 2017’s gonna be a wild ride.
The views and opinions expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect the positions, or views, of my employer, my family or anyone else.