by Phil Berger
Raleigh, NC – Below is some very important background and historical context we’ve shared with members of the North Carolina and national press about legislation being considered in this week. Unfortunately, the vast majority of media outlets have chosen to ignore these hard facts because they do not fit the narrative that sells newspapers or TV advertisements. Overt media bias and an unwillingness to tell both sides of the story is precisely the reason why so many Americans no longer have faith in the mainstream media.
Confirmation of Cabinet Secretaries
Article III, Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution states: the Governor shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of a majority of the Senators appoint all officers whose appointments are not otherwise provided for.
Full Appellate Court Panel Review
We are adopting the same standard used by our federal judicial system to allow cases to be heard “en banc” – by the full state Court of Appeals. This bipartisan idea – which was championed by Gov.-elect Roy Cooper in 1999 and high-ranking Democrat senators in 2001 and 2005 – will ensure at least one full appellate court can review trial court decisions in North Carolina.
We recognize Roy Cooper is our state’s next governor and has the right to hire his own staff. That’s why we’ve authorized 400+ positions he can fill with whoever he wants. But the changes to how state government operates that were desperately needed in 2012 are no longer needed now. When Gov. McCrory took office, he inherited a Department of Health and Human Services with massive Medicaid shortfalls. He inherited a Division of Employment Security that owed more than $2.5 billion to the federal government. And he inherited a bloated bureaucracy whose lack of fiscal discipline contributed to the outrageous $2.5 billion budget shortfall legislative Republicans were saddled with.
In contrast, under Gov. McCrory’s reformed executive branch, North Carolina is thriving. Our economy is booming. We have budget surpluses not shortfalls. Our debt to the federal government is paid off. Our Medicaid system is finally operating within budget. And North Carolina is consistently listed at the top of many national rankings. So, why does it make sense to enable the mass political firing of people who have been doing a wonderful job for the state?
Restoring Administrative Authority to the State Superintendent
We are restoring the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s authority – stripped away by Roy Cooper and his fellow Democrats – to make staffing decisions as the elected head of the Department of Public Instruction. (Article IX, Section 4 of the North Carolina Constitution establishes that the Superintendent of Public Instruction is the secretary and Chief Administrative Officer of the State Board of Education.)
Board of Trustees at UNC Institutions Appointed by Legislature
The North Carolina Constitution (Article IX, Section 8) is crystal clear on this issue:
The General Assembly shall maintain a public system of higher education, comprising The University of North Carolina and such other institutions of higher education as the General Assembly may deem wise. The General Assembly shall provide for the selection of trustees of The University of North Carolina and of the other institutions of higher education, in whom shall be vested all the privileges, rights, franchises, and endowments heretofore granted to or conferred upon the trustees of these institutions. The General Assembly may enact laws necessary and expedient for the maintenance and management of The University of North Carolina and the other public institutions of higher education.
State Ethics and Elections Enforcement Board
We are restructuring the State Board of Elections, Lobbying Compliance Division of the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, and N.C. Ethics Commission into a consolidated State Ethics and Elections Enforcement Board with an even split in partisan membership. This board will be responsible for oversight of campaign finance, lobbying and ethics investigations, ensuring that similar functions are regulated by the same agency and helping avoid situations where separate entities issue conflicting interpretations of the law. It follows the model of the Federal Elections Commission and the current model of the State Ethics Commission by requiring the board’s eight members to be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and by requiring at least six votes for an official action.
Clarifying General Assembly’s Authority to Draw Congressional and Legislative Maps
Our state constitution gives the General Assembly alone the authority to draw congressional and legislative districts. If a constitutional violation is alleged, then the courts can step in and order a remedy.
Partisan Appellate Court Elections
One of the easiest ways for voters to identify who shares their philosophies on the role of the judiciary is through partisan affiliation. This is a much better way for voters to select candidates in lower profile races than by relying on name ID and ballot order. That’s why this bill creates partisan elections for state Courts of Appeals and Supreme Court candidates.
Even the liberal tabloid INDY Week highlighted the problem with our current system, noting that a newly-elected Supreme Court Justice may have won “because conservative voters, knowing little to nothing about these candidates but having seen Republican judges on top elsewhere on the ballot, assumed [he] was a Republican.”
Historical Context on changes to N.C. state government following previous elections
Below are key events from Gov.-elect Cooper’s tenure as a former state senator to keep in mind when considering his feedback on recently proposed policy changes in North Carolina:
· 1995 laws supported by Sen. Cooper stripping away the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s authority: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/1995/Bills/House/PDF/H7v4.pdf,
· 1999 bill sponsored by Majority Leader Cooper creating an ‘en banc’/full appellate court review procedure: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=1999&BillID=sb800&submitButton=Go
· Gov.-elect Cooper was in the legislature when it stripped Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner of most of his authority. What were his thoughts on that change?
· Gov.-elect Cooper’s support for packing the appellate court in 2000 has been well-documented.
· What are Gov.-elect Cooper’s thoughts on his self-described mentor, former Gov. Jim Hunt, demanding scores of resignations before he was even sworn in to his first term, which is now referred to as the ‘Christmas Massacre?’ Does Gov.-elect Cooper plan to follow in his mentor’s footsteps?
· Given that Gov.-elect Cooper has stated on the record his intention to emulate President Obama and circumvent the legislative process by governing through rule-making and executive orders, why is he surprised the legislature is taking steps to protect its constitutional authority?
Past actions are often predictors of future actions, and Gov.-elect Cooper has done nothing to give the expectation that he will behave any differently in his new role.