Republican legislators in North Carolina curb the powers of the incoming Democratic governor – Dec 16th 2016, 13:34 BY A.M. | ATLANTA


WHEN, last week, Pat McCrory finally admitted defeat in North Carolina’s governor’s contest, belatedly abandoning his graceless demand for a recount, it looked as if Republican efforts to sway the state’s elections had finally been exhausted. A voter-ID rule, and other restrictions passed by Republican legislators, had been thrown out by a federal court that found they targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision”; still, say voting-rights activists, limited opportunities for early voting nevertheless suppressed black turnout in November. Gerrymandering, meanwhile, had already helped to assure Republican supermajorities in the state legislature, which will enable lawmakers to override the veto of Roy Cooper, the new Democratic governor—a reason, some in North Carolina thought, that they might not be too distressed by his victory.

Alas, that view overestimated their maturity. This week state Republicans called an additional special session of the General Assembly, in which they are considering a series of bills to dilute the power of the governorship before Mr Cooper assumes it on January 1st; assuming, as seems plausible, that Mr McCrory, the defeated incumbent, signs the measures into law in the dying days of his tenure. The proposals include a requirement for the governor’s cabinet picks to be approved by the Republican-dominated state Senate (they are currently made at his discretion), plus a broader curb over his appointment powers. The clout of the superintendent of education (unsurprisingly, a Republican) could be boosted at the governor’s expense. Mr Cooper would also lose control of the state election board, which would nominally become bipartisan, its chairmanship alternating between the parties—but serendipitously falling to Republicans in the years in which most elections are held. The court system would be rejigged. Taken together, all this would hamper the governor’s efforts to pursue his agenda, and enhance the ability of statehouse Republicans to advance theirs without his consent. If you can’t beat ‘em, neuter ‘em.

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