An appointments bill, which will clear the North Carolina Senate this week, nominates former high-ranking staffers and politicians to various boards and commissions across the state.
Senate Bill 754 names over 80 individuals to public positions on “the recommendation of the president pro tempore of the Senate,” the office held by Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, since 2011. Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brusnwick, who as Rules Committee chair is the second-most-powerful member of the body, is S.B. 754’s primary sponsor.
After its first reading on Wednesday, S.B. 754 was quickly referred to the Senate floor on the same day and was passed by the chamber during its second reading. After another reading, the bill has the votes to easily pass the chamber.
The N.C. Constitution allows the General Assembly to approve public office appointments without the threat of a veto from the Governor’s office.
Among those named to the various public positions are Sen. Berger’s former chiefs of staff: Jim Blaine and Andrew Tripp.
Blaine, who the legislation appoints to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees for a four-year term, served as Berger’s chief of staff from 2011 to 2018. Blaine, a UNC alumnus, is currently a partner at the Differentiators, a GOP-linked political consulting firm, and has served on UNC’s Board of Visitors since 2018.
Blaine’s successor as chief of staff, Andrew Tripp, served from 2018 to 2020, earlier holding a position as Berger’s general counsel from 2013 to 2018. S.B. 754 appoints him to the Roanoke Island Historical Association’s board of directors for a three-year term.
Lawrence J. Shaheen, a Republican attorney and political consultant from Charlotte, was named to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Board of Trustees. Shaheen’s term would be effective July 1, 2023 and expire June 30, 2027.
The bill further nominates current and former state politicians to positions.
Current state senators Benton Sawrey, R-Johnston; Jim Burgin, R-Harnett; and Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson, are appointed to the Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force for two-year terms. The task force serves “to provide statewide leadership for the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease,” according to its website.
S.B. 754 names former N.C. Senate Majority Leader Kathy Harrington to a four-year term on the Western Carolina University Board of Trustees. Harrington, a Republican, retired from the Senate in 2023 after 12 years in office and one term as majority leader.
Former Republican Sen. John Alexander, who was in office from 2015 to 2021, is named with three other individuals to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission regulates hunting, fishing, and boating in the Tarheel State.
The legislation appoints some former Democratic lawmakers to public positions. Former Democratic Senator Michael Walters, who served from 2009 to 2015, is assigned to the N.C. Railroad Board of Directors. Also, Reverend James Gailliard, who served two terms as a Democratic House member before losing re-election in 2023, is appointed to HBCU Elizabeth City State University’s Board of Trustees.
Notably, the bill’s final appointments name individuals to two boards: the N.C. Compassionate Use Advisory Board and the N.C. Medical Cannabis Production Commission. However, both boards’ existence depends on the passage of Senate Bill 3 which legalizes medical marijuana in the state. Despite passing the Senate with bipartisan support in March, the measure reportedly does not have enough support in the House.
As many public office terms begin on Saturday, July 1, 2023, the General Assembly is expected to approve the appointments before the Fourth of July break starts.
Sen. Berger has not responded to request for comment on the appointments bill as of publication.