News: Quick Takes

Bill curbing a governor’s powers moves from Senate Judiciary Committee to Rules

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, addresses colleagues on the Senate floor. (Screen shot from ncleg.gov)
Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, addresses colleagues on the Senate floor. (Screen shot from ncleg.gov)

A bill to curtail a governor’s power during a state emergency has easily passed a Senate Judiciary Committee.

The measure, Senate Bill 346, now heads to the Senate’s Rules Committee.

Republican Sens. Bill Rabon of Brunswick County, Jim Burgin of Harnett, and Carl Ford of Stanley are primary sponsors. The bill allows an executive order to stand 10 days before it requires approval from the Council of State. That’s the 10-member body made up of each statewide elected executive branch official, including the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.

The bill also places an automatic end date on emergency executive orders, forcing them to expire after 45 days unless the General Assembly votes to extend them. 

“It’s a simple bill dealing with an all-too-real situation in North Carolina,” Rabon said of S.B. 346. The bill giving the governor his current emergency powers was written decades ago, and not with a pandemic in mind, he said.

“No person should have unchecked authority.”

S.B. 346 is one of several bills now circulating in the General Assembly that would end the practice of a governor issuing and extending executive orders in perpetuity.

The bill, Rabon said in Wednesday’s committee meeting, wouldn’t be veto-proof, although it sets a mechanism “that we’re doing things a little differently.”

The committee approved an amendment, proposed by Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, to prohibit a governor from repeatedly issuing a similar order.

Burgin said he has told lawmakers this is a good bill — an idea — no matter who’s the governor.

“I still believe that,” Burgin said.

Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, said the governor’s current powers run counter to the N.C. Constitution. She labeled the measures in S.B. 346 as “desperately needed.” Galey said the current situation doesn’t reflect the representative government on which the state and country were founded.

Sen. Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg, spoke against the bill. She said the governor was elected during the pandemic and the system is working well. She said this bill and others like it are akin to “throwing banana peels in the path of a governor” who is steadily and effectively leading residents through this pandemic.