Legislation that deprives the governor’s political party of controlling appointments to a new state elections and ethics board was approved in the General Assembly on Tuesday.
The bill is headed to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper, who has said he would veto it.
Senate Bill 68 combines the current State Ethics Commission and State Board of Elections into a single board, and incorporates lobbying oversight that currently resides with the secretary of state.
The new board will have eight members, evenly split between the two major political parties. Currently, the state elections board has five members, three of whom are from the governor’s party. The governor would select the members from lists provided by the parties.
In a revision worked out with House and Senate Republicans on Monday night, a simple majority of five would be required for all votes rather than five in some cases and six in other cases. The governor would appoint the chair, vice chair and secretary of the new board. Democrats would serve as chair of the board for mid-term elections such as 2018, while Republicans would chair the board during presidential election years.
“It takes the partisan politics out of this,” said Sen. Andrew Brock, a Republican who represents Davie, Iredell and Rowan counties.
“This is truly not a bipartisan bill,” said Sen. Angela Bryant, a Democrat from Rocky Mount. “It is bipartisan in name only.”
House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson of Knightdale said the board would be deadlocked and dysfunctional. “Let’s bring the governor’s office to the table and try to work something out,” he said.
Republicans say the bill was written to address concerns raised by a three-judge panel that struck down the legislature’s attempt to merge the boards following Cooper’s election last year.