On Monday, North Carolina Senate leaders introduced a bill that would “bring much-needed balance and accountability to unelected boards and commissions,” according to a press release from Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.
Republicans have a supermajority in the state senate and what has been coined a “working supermajority” in the state House. House Republicans only need one Democrat to vote with them on a given bill for a supermajority.
A supermajority is a term meaning one party has a coalition of votes to override a governor’s veto. In North Carolina, three-fifths of legislators are required to vote for an override, which is 72 out of 120 House members and 30 out of 50 Senate members.
Three forces combine to allow Cooper very little, if any, say in policy outcomes this year: the House’s “working supermajority,” the Senate’s supermajority, and Cooper signing a Medicaid expansion bill that is tethered to the passage of a state budget.
“These boards have independent functions outside of the legislative and executive branches and have significant rulemaking duties that impact state government,” said the press release. “Yet they lack a diversity of thought that represents the state as a whole since all or a large majority of members are hand-picked by the Governor or serve in his administration. The rules and policies these boards and commissions make have a significant impact on the lives of North Carolinians, but there is little recourse for citizens to hold the boards accountable.”
Senate Bill 512 broadens the appointment authorities for membership between the executive branch – including members of the Council of State – and the General Assembly.
“These boards and commissions are charged with overseeing areas of state government that have a tremendous impact on our daily lives,” said Berger. “By balancing the membership of these unelected boards, we’re increasing the viewpoints on the boards by diversifying the appointing authorities.”
The nine boards and commissions are:
- The Utilities Commission
- The Economic Investment Committee
- The Environmental Management Commission
- The Commission for Public Health
- The Board of Transportation
- The Coastal Resources Commission
- The Wildlife Resources Commission
- The N.C. Railroad Board of Directors
- The UNC Health Care Board of Directors
“North Carolinians expect their elected officials to represent their interests and hold decision-makers accountable for their actions,” said Daniel. “We cannot do that for these boards and commissions if the General Assembly and other elected officials don’t have a more considerable role in appointing members.”
Appointments made by the General Assembly are voted on by the 170 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, while most gubernatorial appointments are approved by one person – the governor.
“Balancing the appointments on these boards is good for all North Carolinians,” said Rabon. “Including the General Assembly and Council of State offices in the process will broaden the field of qualified candidates to fill these positions.”
According to the press release, the governor makes appointments to more than 350 boards and commissions, and the governor makes over 600 appointments that expire each year.
No current appointees would have their terms cut short by this proposal.
Per the press release, the changes to the boards and commissions membership are as follows:
- Utilities Commission: Adds two members and changes the appointment authority mix. The membership would be comprised of four appointees from the General Assembly, four appointees from the Governor, and one appointee from the State Treasurer. The Utilities Commission would also move from the Department of Commerce to the State Treasurer’s office. The Governor will continue to appoint the chair. Currently, the seven members of the board are all appointed by the Governor.
- Economic Investment Committee: Adds two members. The membership would be comprised of the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Revenue, State Budget Director, two appointees from the General Assembly, the Speaker of the House or his designee, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate or his designee. Currently, there are only five members.
- Environmental Management Commission: Changes the appointment authority mix. The Governor would appoint seven members, the General Assembly would appoint six members, and the Agriculture Commissioner would appoint two members. Currently, the Governor appoints nine members, and the General Assembly appoints six.
- Commission for Public Health: Changes the appointment authority mix. The Governor would appoint five members, the General Assembly would appoint four, and the N.C. Medical Society would elect four members. Currently, the Governor appoints nine members and the N.C. Medical Society elects four members.
- Board of Transportation: Changes the appointment structure. The General Assembly would appoint 14 members representing the 14 highway divisions, the Governor would appoint six at-large members, and the Secretary of Transportation would serve as a non-voting member. Currently, the Governor appoints 14 members representing the 14 highway divisions, the General Assembly appoints six at-large members, and the Secretary of Transportation serves as a non-voting member.
- Coastal Resources Commission: Changes the appointment authority mix. The General Assembly would appoint six members, the Governor would appoint six members, and the Insurance Commissioner would appoint one member. Currently, the Governor appoints nine members, and the General Assembly appoints four.
- Wildlife Resources Commission: Changes the appointment authority mix and adds two new members. The General Assembly would appoint 10 members, the Governor would appoint 10 members, and the Agriculture Commissioner would appoint one member. Currently, the Governor appoints 11 members, and the General Assembly appoints eight.
- N.C. Railroad Board of Directors: Changes the appointment authority mix. The General Assembly would appoint six members, the Governor would appoint six members, and the State Treasurer would appoint one member. Currently, the Governor appoints seven members, and the General Assembly appoints six.
- UNC Health Care Board of Directors: Changes the appointment authority mix and the number of administrators on the board. The board would be comprised of the UNC System President or his designee, the CEO of UNC Health Care, the UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor, the President of UNC Hospitals, 12 members appointed by the Board of Governors, and eight members appointed by the General Assembly. Currently, the board is comprised of the UNC System President, the CEO of UNC Health Care, the UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor, the UNC-Chapel Hill Administrative Officer, the President of UNC Hospitals, the President of the UNC Faculty Physicians, two members of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine Faculty, 12 members appointed by the Board of Governors and four appointed by the Board of Directors.
Three boards – the Environmental Management Commission, the Board of Transportation, and the Coastal Resources Commission – would elect their board chairs instead of having the Governor appoint the chair.
The bill will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 4, at 11:00 A.M.