CHARLOTTE – So the Charlotte Observer talked to some former governors to solicit their thoughts on one constitutional amendment (out of six) that will appear on the ballot in November. The amendment would establish a bipartisan board of elections with eight member split evenly by party, and requiring 6 vote majorities to approve motions. The amendment would also grant the legislature authority over appointments to scores of boards and commission across state government.
And wouldn’t you know it, the former governors of the Old North State – a state in which the executive was constitutionally designed to be weak and subordinate to a representative legislature – didn’t like the idea of reducing executive powers.
“By most measures, North Carolina already has one of America’s weakest governors. Now experts say a new ballot measure would take away even more power.
The measure, passed by a Republican-controlled legislature, takes aim at Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. But the underlying tensions it reflects go beyond party.
That’s why three former governors are joining Cooper in opposing a constitutional amendment that would give the General Assembly more power at the governor’s expense.
“The legislature should be making laws, not running the government,” said former Gov. Jim Martin, a Republican. “You have to defeat (the amendment). You have to kill a snake at every opportunity.”
“It’s a blatant power grab from the executive branch,” said former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.”
Former Gov. Jim Hunt, a Democrat, said he “totally opposes it.” A governor of either party, he said, better reflects “the people as a whole.”
Honestly, did anyone expect a former governor, already having lived the experience of a frustratingly weak executive position (by design), to say, ‘Yep, I agree, take those powers away from the governor.“?
No, and that’s why asking former governor’s this question is not really instructive. The only purpose it serves is to add ‘bipartisan’ credibility to Gov. Cooper’s and Democrats’ spin about the out of control legislature.
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Put aside for the moment the outrageous fact that the State of North Carolina has over 400 boards and commissions – 350+ of which are either useless or harmful to our liberty and pocketbooks.
Instead, think about the juxtaposition between a one-man executive, elected statewide, and a 170 member body, each one elected to represent their respective district.
Former Gov. Jim Hunt said the executive is the one that better represents the people as the whole? That’s not how representative government works.
McCrory’s response is rather harsh, but his wounds as a result of tussling with the legislature are most fresh. There are rumors he may run for governor in 2020 – this accusatory statement, that could have just as easily come from the head of the N.C. Democratic Party, is likely to follow him into a primary campaign.
The governor of North Carolina is weak by design, because North Carolinians had a profound mistrust of concentrated power held by an executive authority. They had had enough of that under the Royal Governors pre-American Revolution. That’s precisely why North Carolina was ‘First in Freedom,’ demanding independence and, most importantly, the individual liberty best enacted via representative government.
Cooper will whine about a balance of power, or separation of powers, but the simple fact is that the legislative branch of government is has, does, and always will have the most legitimate claim to being the most powerful branch of government. That holds true at the federal and state level, though the former’s balance of power leaned heavily toward the executive over years and years of congress delegating its power away.
Read more about the governors’ predictable take on the situation here.
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