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North Carolina GOP Lawmakers Seek to Limit New Governor's Power

Roy Cooper
Roy Cooper

Pro-LGBT Democrat Roy Cooper faces resistance from legislators before he is even sworn in.

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Less than two weeks after Democrat Roy Cooper was declared the winner of the North Carolina governor's race, defeating anti-LGBT Republican incumbent Pat McCrory, the Republican-controlled legislature is seeking to limit his power.

Wednesday, during a special session, GOP lawmakers introduced bills to make the governor's cabinet appointments subject to state Senate approval; drastically reduce the number of other state employees he is allowed to appoint; eliminate his power to appoint members of the state Board of Education and the boards of schools in the University of North Carolina system; and change the makeup of elections boards, The News & Observer of Raleigh reports.

"Major changes in the way state government operates should be done deliberately, with input from all parties, particularly something as important as elections and making sure people have the opportunity to vote," Cooper said at a press conference Thursday morning, the paper reports. "They shouldn't be pushed through in the dark of night."

Legislators finished one special session Wednesday by approving a disaster relief bill to deal with the effects of Hurricane Matthew, then immediately convened another to introduce the new proposals.

"Most people might think that this is a partisan power grab. But this is more ominous," Cooper said at the press conference. He said Republicans want to change education policies, leading to larger class sizes, and weaken environmental laws.

He pointed to the state's infamous anti-LGBT House Bill 2 as an example of what can happen when the legislature acts too quickly. Lawmakers pushed the bill through both the House and Senate in one day last March, and McCrory signed it into law the same day.

It bars cities and counties from enacting or enforcing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and requires transgender people, when in government buildings, to use restrooms and other single-sex facilities that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth, not their gender identity. The buildings covered include public schools and state universities.

The law has resulted in public outcry, economic boycotts, and lawsuits. Cooper, the state's attorney general, refused to defend HB 2 in court and called it an embarrassment. It was most likely a key reason for McCrory's defeat. The race was close, and McCrory sought recounts, but he finally conceded December 5.

One of the most significant bills proposed in the current special session is the one changing the makeup of election boards, The News & Observer reports. County election boards are currently made up of two members from the governor's party and one from the other party; the bill would make them four-member bodies, evenly split among partisan lines.

Another major piece of legislation would remove the right to appeal a case involving constitutional law directly from Superior Court to the state Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals -- something that was approved when the Supreme Court had a majority of Republican judges. Now it has a Democratic majority and the Court of Appeals has a Republican majority, hence the GOP-backed proposal.

It's unclear how much will actually get done in the special session, according to The News & Observer. Committees are set to discuss bills today and vote on them today or Friday, the paper notes.

Cooper, who will take office January 1, said he is having lawyers review every bill that has been introduced and will sue over anything that appears to be unconstitutional. He also recommended that legislators end the special session. "It's time for them to go home," he said at the news conference.

[RELATED: North Carolina's Anti-LGBT Governor Reportedly Joining Trump White House]

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