Under the Dome

Roy Cooper to legislature: Go home

Responding to the General Assembly’s effort to limit his power before he takes office Jan. 1, Gov.-elect Roy Cooper said it’s time for lawmakers to go home.

“Major changes in the way state government operates should be done deliberately, with input from all parties, particuarly something as important as elections and making sure people have the opportunity to vote,” said Cooper, the Democratic attorney general who defeated Gov. Pat McCrory in last month’s election. “They shouldn’t be pushed through in the dark of night.”

Cooper made the comments at a press conference Thursday morning. A day earlier, lawmakers who had come to Raleigh to respond to Hurricane Matthew called a surprise special session once they had finished approving McCrory’s disaster-relief package. In the new session, they unveiled a series of proposals including one that would diminish the governor’s authority to make appointments.

Members of the Republican-controlled legislature called for making Cooper’s Cabinet appointments subject to approval by the state Senate and eliminating his ability to appoint members to UNC schools’ boards of trustees. Another proposal aims to evenly split election boards between the political parties rather than keep them under control of the governor’s party.

“Most people might think that this is a partisan power grab. But this is more ominous,” Cooper told reporters.

He said Republicans aim to reduce air and water protections and change education policies, including larger class sizes and budget shifts.

Cooper said he’s willing to compromise with the legislature. He mentioned the possibility of using incentives to keep people employed who are losing jobs at factories in Senate leader Phil Berger’s district, including the Ball Corp. beverage packaging factory in Reidsville and the MillerCoors plant in Eden.

He tied the session to a frequent target, House Bill 2, saying that trying to force proposals through quickly and without debate is how the state ended up with HB2, the law limiting anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

So much has been proposed so quickly, Cooper said, that he hasn’t had time to read it all.

“It’s time for them to go home,” he said. “It’s time for us to get ready for the long session,” the legislative session that starts next month.

Cooper declined to say if he thought the session itself was unconstitutional – as some Democratic legislators had said – but he said lawyers are looking over every bill that was introduced. And he promised to challenge any law that appears unconstitutional.

“They will see me in court,” he said. “And they don’t have a very good track record there.”

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