News: Quick Takes

Cooper lashes out at ‘back-handed’ moves in special session

Gov-elect takes umbrage at moves in General Assembly to limit his power

Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, at Thursday's press conference. (Screen shot from WRAL News video)
Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, at Thursday's press conference. (Screen shot from WRAL News video)

Gov.-elect Roy Cooper held a news conference Thursday morning in response to a slew of bills from lawmakers filed in a special session of the General Assembly.

Lawmakers on Wednesday filed 28 bills, including measures that would require Cabinet officials appointed by the governor to receive approval from the Senate, reconfigure the State Board of Elections to remove partisanship, and make future Supreme Court and Court of Appeals races partisan.

The bills would take power from the governor, which, in January, will be Cooper.

“Most people might think that this is a partisan power-grab, but it is really more ominous.

“It’s really about public education, working families, state employees, health care, and clean air and water,” he said.

Cooper called the process a “back-handed way” to take money from public schools for private vouchers, to weaken protections on air and water, to inhibit initiatives focusing on renewable energy and Medicaid expansion, and make it easier to approve “big” corporate tax breaks.

“The result could hurt North Carolinians.”

Wednesday’s bills included no clear or direct reference to the aforementioned talking points.

He called the legislature’s action “unprecedented” and thwarted questions about similar tactics previously employed by Democrats. For example, in 1989 the Democrat-dominated General Assembly removed newly elected Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner’s power to assemble committees and assign bills, a power reassigned to the Democratic leadership in the Senate. The Democratic-run General Assembly also limited some of then-Gov. Jim Martin’s authority during the Republican’s two terms in office.

Cooper took issue with the moves from the Republican-controlled legislature and hinted at legal action.

Carolina Journal attempted to cover the news conference but was denied access. Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley did not immediately respond for a request for an explanation.

“I will use all of our tools, and we have a lot, to lead this state in the right direction,” Cooper said, including the courts. “If I believe that laws passed by the legislature hurt working families and are unconstitutional, they will see me in court.”

In referring to potential appointees, Cooper accused Republicans of stomping on the idea that North Carolina is a state that works for everyone. He made clear he will focus on education and repealing House Bill 2, the “bathroom bill,” in an effort to restore “our state’s reputation.”

Cooper intimated he was ready to “compromise,” and even mentioned reaching out to Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, on an incentive package to keep the Ball Corporation plant and its 150 workers in Reidsville, which is in Berger’s district.

A couple of times, Cooper talked about lawmakers working deep into the night to file legislation, even though all the bills were filed before 8 p.m. Wednesday. He also said he hasn’t read all of the proposed legislation.

He said many of the issues brought forth in the bills should be addressed in during the regular session, as opposed to “the dark of night with little debate.”

“We don’t want another disaster like House Bill 2,” he added. “It’s time for them to go home.”