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Wake, Greensboro bills scare some Mecklenburg County officials

Some Mecklenburg County officials are casting a wary eye at a pair of bills scheduled for a hearing next week in a Senate committee.

One was introduced this week by Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County. It would expand the board of county commissioners and change the way they’re elected. Last fall Democrats won every seat on the commission.

The other bill, from Republican Sen. Trudy Wade of Greensboro, would make drastic changes in the Greensboro City Council, shrinking the council’s size, reducing the number of at-large members and changing the length of terms.

Both bills came as a surprise to most people in Greensboro and Wake County.

For a lot of people in Mecklenburg, the bills brought back memories of the 2013 legislation that seemingly came out of nowhere to create an authority to run Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

“I’ve heard about a few rumblings about somebody introducing a bill to change the makeup of the (Mecklenburg) county commission,” says Democratic Rep Carla Cunningham of Charlotte. “I don’t think we ought to be micro-managing.”

Republican Mecklenburg Commissioner Bill James said last week that he’s floated the notion of reduce the number of at-large commission seats from three to one and shrinking the size of the board from nine to seven. The at-large member automatically would become chair.

He said the idea came after last year’s squabble among Democratic commissioners, who bypassed the leading vote-getter, Democrat Pat Cotham, in favor of Democrat Trevor Fuller.

The Wake County bill caught people by surprise. Some showed up for an early hearing on it Thursday in the Senate Redistricting Committee, chaired by GOP Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews, who introduced the 2013 airport bill.

Rucho has said the committee will vote on both the Wake and Greensboro bills Tuesday. Both could reach the Senate floor next week.