Stop us if you’ve heard this one. The North Carolina legislature passes a bad bill and sends it to Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory says the bill includes provisions that are “wrong and short-sighted.” McCrory then signs the bill anyway.
It happened yet again this week. The governor is leaving office with a whimper, a fitting ending to a thoroughly disappointing term. McCrory took office four years ago endorsed by most of the state’s newspapers, riding a decisive victory and a career-long record as a centrist who got things done. He leaves it as legislative roadkill, unable to stand up for anything or to anyone.
Given one last chance to adhere to principle and end his lone term as a statesman, he instead stuck to the pattern that cratered his gubernatorial tenure: ignoring voters, rolling over for Senate leader Phil Berger and feeding the good ol’ boy network that he vowed to break up when campaigning in 2012.
Late Monday, McCrory signed House Bill 17, which was part of the legislature’s egregious power-grab in its special session last week. He did so even as he said he had a “major disagreement” with it. In a statement explaining his support for the bill, McCrory didn’t so much applaud it as argue that its elements were “hardly extreme.”
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He added: “My major disagreement with this bill is requiring confirmation of cabinet secretaries. This is wrong and short-sighted” and Gov.-elect Roy Cooper needs to work with the legislature on it. “With this in mind, I will sign House Bill 17.”
Thanks for nothing, Governor. The bill strips the governor of the ability to appoint trustees to boards of UNC system schools and gives the Senate veto power over cabinet secretary appointments, among other things. Past governors of both parties agreed it was an overreach. McCrory’s support for it was especially jarring given that he had successfully fought the legislature in a separation-of-powers case decided this year by the N.C. Supreme Court.
McCrory could have salvaged some of his legacy in the final weeks of his term. He led ably on providing Hurricane Matthew relief. But that good work was overshadowed first by his support for a voter suppression bill that a federal court said targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.” Then, when it was clear to almost everyone that he had lost his re-election bid, he dinged democracy by alleging widespread voter fraud, which was a phantom. This week and last, he gave a final insult to voters by endorsing the legislature’s anti-democratic bullying.
As a parting gift to taxpayers, McCrory engaged in the very kind of sliminess he decried when running on the premise that “Raleigh is broken.” Armed with 11th-hour legislation, McCrory appointed his chief of staff’s wife, Yolanda Stith, to a six-year term on the Industrial Commission. Though she has little relevant experience, she will be paid $127,000 a year.
McCrory’s work here is done. On to the Trump administration.