News: CJ Exclusives

Perdue Targets Boards and Commissions

New Republican majority will control thousands of appointments

When Gov. Bev Perdue introduced the outlines of her government reform plans at a speech in Pinehurst today, she highlighted the more than 400 boards and commissions that oversee state agencies, advise the governor, hear grievances, or perform specific regulatory and other functions.

Perdue said she would send the General Assembly a list of 150 boards and commissions she said “should be reviewed and justified between now and Dec. 31, 2011.”

Nearly two-thirds of the boards, which have more than 4,000 appointees, receive staff or administrative support from a state-funded agency, said Perdue. “I believe some of them need to justify their reason for being. That’s what I will ask the General Assembly to do, and if [it finds] the organization brings no value to the people or businesses of N.C., I will ask them to eliminate it.”

Appointments to boards and commissions traditionally have been considered a major element of political patronage. Perdue is seeking to eliminate dozens of boards to which Republicans are poised to make significant appointments, a power that Democrats have held exclusively for more than a century except for a four-year period in the 1990s.

Even though the boards generally are considered part of the executive branch, and the governor maintains the only comprehensive list of board members in the Boards & Commission Office, the General Assembly selects some or all the members of approximately 200 of them. In some instances, the General Assembly appoints a majority of the members. Current laws give most of the appointment powers directly to the top leaders in each chamber, the speaker of the House and the Senate president pro tem.

In addition to the executive branch boards, there are approximately 80 additional permanent legislative commissions, or non-standing committees, on which legislators serve as members.

The General Assembly has the power to make substantial changes in the makeup and tenure of boards or commissions. Rockingham County Sen. Phil Berger, nominated by Republicans to become the Senate president pro tem, already has suggested that the new majority will pay attention to the composition of some boards.

For instance, Berger has proposed that the State Board of Elections go from five members to six. Under his plan, the board would have three appointees from each party, rather than the current arrangement with three members from the governor’s party and two from the opposing party.

In the 2011 General Assembly, Berger’s likely counterpart in the House will be Rep. Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County, who was selected as the next speaker. If elected by their chambers, as expected, they would replace Orange County Rep. Joe Hackney, who has led the House since 2007, and Dare County Sen. Marc Basnight, who has led the Senate since 1993.

Most boards have staggered terms of office. Though some members will resign or retire, under current laws the membership of some boards is scheduled to turn over quickly, while it will take years for other boards to change significantly.

And some boards and commissions are created with a fixed term, or sunset date. Unless lawmakers extend the terms of such boards, they cease operations on the sunset date. A recent example was the Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change, which originally was given until October 2009 to submit its final report; last year, the General Assembly extended its term for one year and it closed down Oct. 1.

A swift change is likely in the 32-member University of North Carolina Board of Governors, the governing board for the 16-campus system. Some time in the 2011 session that convenes Jan. 26, the House and Senate will pick 16 new members for four-year terms beginning July 1.

On the other hand, it will take four years for Republicans to appoint a majority of the 15 members to the Golden LEAF Foundation Board.

Ones to watch

A Carolina Journal review of state boards and commissions identified several having significant functions or influence. For the purposes of this story, appointments by the House or at the direction of the House speaker will be referred to as House. Appointments by the Senate or from the recommendation of the Senate president pro tem will be referred to as Senate. CJ also listed several boards holding major responsibilities or authorities that currently have no appointees from the House or the Senate.

Education boards

Republicans will have an immediate influence over North Carolina’s 16-campus public university system. The General Assembly appoints all 32 members of the UNC Board of Governors, the system’s governing board which manages its nearly $3 billion operating budget. Early in the legislative session, the House and the Senate each will select eight new members to four-year terms that will begin in July. Half of the current board may be replaced. In previous years, the minority party in each chamber had little influence on the selections.

That said, each individual institution, such as N. C. State University or Appalachian State University, has a 13-member Board of Trustees, with eight trustees selected by the Board of Governors and four by the governor. The 13th trustee is the student body president. In every odd‑numbered year, the Board of Governors selects four persons to each Board of Trustees and the governor appoints two persons.

The staggered four-year terms begin in July, so the current Board of Governors — under the direction of Basnight and Hackney — will select four new trustees at each campus. The new Board of Governors, with half of the members appointed by Republicans, must wait until 2013 before it can select four new trustees for each campus.

The 21-member State Board of Community Colleges oversees the 58-campus system. The General Assembly selects only eight of the board members, with the House and Senate each selecting four members to staggered six-year terms that begin in July of every odd-numbered year. Only one House slot and one Senate slot are up in 2011.

The 13-member North Carolina State Board of Education is responsible for the K-12 public school system. By law, the lieutenant governor and the state treasurer are designated members and the governor selects the other 11 members for staggered eight-year terms. There are no House or Senate appointees.

Tobacco fund boards

The Golden LEAF Foundation receives half of North Carolina’s share of tobacco settlement payments and makes economic development grants. It has received approximately $900 million and expects to receive a total of $2.3 billion by 2025.

Golden LEAF has made more than 1,000 grants totaling roughly $500 million since 2000. The grants have helped finance, among other things, the N.C. Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park, the Spirit AeroSystems manufacturing facility at the Global TransPark, the Carolina Horse Park Foundation, and a host of other projects.

The Board of Directors has 15 members, with five appointed by the governor, five by the House, and five by the Senate to staggered four-year terms expiring in November. No House or Senate appointee terms expire in 2011. The new House and Senate leaders will have to wait until November 2012 to make their first appointments.

Another general election will take place that month. Unless the General Assembly changes the law, even if Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate in 2012, they cannot appoint a majority of that board until 2014. Of course, should Republicans win the governor’s race in 2012, the new governor could select new members, and the turnover could accelerate.

The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission administers 25 percent of the state’s tobacco settlement funds, giving financial assistance to individuals and businesses adversely affected by declining tobacco use. It has made approximately $25 million in grants since inception. It has an 18-member board, with six from the House and six from the Senate serving staggered four-year terms. One House and one Senate board position will open in July 2011.

The N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission administers 25 percent of the state’s tobacco settlement funds, making grants to reduce smoking and promote better health. It also has an 18-member board, with six from the House and six from the Senate serving staggered four-year terms. One Senate position will become available in July 2011.

Economic development boards

The N.C. Economic Development Board oversees state economic development research and planning and make recommendations to the governor and General Assembly. The board has 38 members, including four legislators from the House and four legislators from the Senate serving staggered four-year terms.

The Economic Investment Committee approves Job Development Investment Grants — special tax credits — to new and expanding businesses. There are five members, with one House and one Senate appointee serving two-year terms.

The N.C. Global TransPark Authority Board of Directors manages the GTP airport and industrial park in Kinston. It has 20 members, with three House and three Senate appointees. The Global TransPark, created by the General Assembly in 1991, originally was envisioned as an air cargo airport. The state has spent more than $140 million on the GTP since its inception. As CJ reported in March, the GTP Authority cannot repay nearly $40 million it owes the state’s Escheats Fund.

The N.C. State Ports Authority oversees the operation of the state-owned ports in Wilmington and Morehead City. The board has 11 members, with two from the House and two from the Senate.

The Ports Authority acquired 600 acres of land in Southport in 2006 with the objective of building a $3 billion, state-owned container shipping port. After local opposition to the proposal grew, and stories questioning the economic viability of the port from CJ and other media sources emerged, the 2010 General Assembly voted not to fund a feasibility study for the project.

The North Carolina’s Northeast Commission is a state-funded economic development organization based in Edenton serving 16 counties. The 18-member board has six House and six Senate appointees.

The North Carolina’s Eastern Region Development Commission is a state-funded economic development organization based in Kinston serving 13 counties. The 19-member board has two members picked by the House and two by the Senate.

The Southeastern North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission is a state-funded economic development organization based in Elizabethtown serving 11 counties. Its 11-member board has five House and five Senate appointees.

The Western North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission is a state-funded organization headquartered in Fletcher. Its 19-member board has seven members appointed by the House and seven by the Senate.

The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center develops and implements policies to “improve the quality of life” in rural North Carolina. The center considers 85 of the state’s 100 counties as rural. It makes grants and loans from funds it receives from the General Assembly. The board has 50 members, with three from the House and three from the Senate.

Environment boards

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund was created in 1996 to give grants for cleaning up impaired waters and protecting pristine waters. Its board has 21 members, with seven chosen by the governor, seven by the House, and seven by the Senate, all to staggered four-year terms. Two Senate positions and one House position will open July 1, 2011. Two additional House slots will open in 2012. In 2013, five more slots will open between the Senate and the House. Even so, in 2013, Democrats will continue to control 11 of the 21 seats.

The N. C. Environmental Management Commission is responsible for adopting rules to protect the state’s air and water resources. It has 17 members, with three picked by the House and three by the Senate. Two House slots and three Senate Slots will become available in July 2011.

The Wildlife Resources Commission regulates hunting, fishing, and boating activities in North Carolina. There are 19 members with the governor appointing 11, and the House and the Senate each appointing four.

Other significant boards and commissions

The N.C. State Ethics Commission was established in 2007 to provide assistance to state officials covered by state ethics laws and investigates alleged violations. It consists of eight members, with two from the House and two from the Senate. After the initial phase-in process, all members serve staggered four-year terms. One House appointee’s term and one Senate appointee’s term will expire Dec. 31.

The Rules Review Commission reviews administrative rules proposed by state agencies. It has 10 members, with five House and five Senate appointees. Five House slots and three Senate slots will become available in July 2011. Two Senate slots will open in 2012.

The Local Government Commission approves local government borrowing plans. It has nine members, with one each from the House and the Senate.

The N.C. Education Lottery Commission runs the state’s lottery program. The commission has nine members, with two each from the House and the Senate. One House and one Senate slot will open in 2012 and then again in 2013.

The Governor’s Crime Commission advises the governor on crime and justice issues and administers federal block grant programs. It has 44 members, with two each from the House and the Senate.

The Judicial Standards Commission investigates and disciplines judges, if necessary. It has 13 members, with one each from the House and the Senate.

The N.C. Banking Commission is responsible for the regulation of Banks and other financial institutions. It has 22 members, with one each from the House and the Senate.

Boards with no House or Senate appointees

The N.C. Board of Transportation advises the Secretary of Transportation and sets priorities for road and other public transportation projects. All 19 members serve at the pleasure of the governor.

The Employment Security Commission of North Carolina collects taxes from employers and administers the state’s unemployment insurance program. It also provides employment assistance to job seekers and labor market information to the public. The seven commissioners serve at the pleasure of the governor for staggered four-year terms.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission provides control over the sale, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The governor appoints all three members.

The State Board of Elections oversees the state’s elections. The governor appoints the five-member board to four-year terms, but two of the members must be from a list of five persons submitted by the chairman of the political party whose candidate received the second most votes in the most recent election for governor.

The N.C. Utilities Commission regulates the rates and services of all public utilities in the state. The governor appoints all seven members to staggered eight-year terms. Each appointment is subject to confirmation by the General Assembly by joint resolution. One term will expire in June 2011, and the next two expirations will occur in 2013.

The N.C. Industrial Commission administers workers’ compensation claims and the commissioners serve as judges in contested cases. The governor appoints all seven members to staggered six-year terms.

The N.C. Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission hears contested workplace safety cases. The governor appoints all three members to staggered six-year terms.

The Coastal Resources Commission establishes rules for coastal management and designates areas of environmental concern. The governor appoints all 15 members.

The Marine Fisheries Commission establishes policies for the Division of Environment and Natural Resource’s Division of Marine Fisheries. The governor appoints all nine members to staggered three-year terms.

FOR A LIST OF THE MORE THAN 400 BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS, GO TO http://www.governor.state.nc.us/library/pdf/RedBook.pdf.

Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal.