North Carolinians had high hopes for the new governor when they elected him in December, giving the GOP control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the General Assembly for the first time since the 19th century.
After the relatively weak and partisan governorship of Bev Perdue, and the tenure of Mike Easley that ended in his pleading guilty to filing false campaign reports, state voters were looking for change.
So far, Pat McCrory’s idea of change leaves a lot to be desired.
He started off by holding a private inauguration, banning members of the public, the media (except for one single camera and one reporter), and most members of the state government, from attending. Then he raised cabinet salaries from $122,000, their pay under Perdue, to between $128,000 and $135,000.
Now, he and the GOP leadership in the General Assembly have decided to fire various state commission members and replace them with fresh, new Republican appointments.
The state has a number of commissions with oversight authority — examples would be the Utilities Commission, Wildlife Resources Commission and the Environmental Management Commission. People serving on these commissions have, by and large, been appointed by the governor, a practice going back a century or more in some cases. Those commission members generally serve between four and eight years, depending upon the specific commission.
Generally the various seats on these commissions are staggered, meaning a few might expire this year, more next year, still more the following year, and so on. This allows for boards to have a mixture of new, fresh ideas along with experience and knowledge about what the board oversees. Because some seat terms are longer than the four-year gubernatorial terms, those serving on a board or commission often finds himself or herself serving with those appointed by a different governor, offering more diversity to the group.
A bill introduced in the General Assembly would reorganize many of these commissions, and fire every sitting board member. Gov. McCrory, or in some cases General Assembly officials, would then fill the seats.
If this bill is passed and enacted, every commission will be populated by inexperienced individuals who will most likely spend the next year or two stumbling around, trying to figure out the ropes of the job, given the fact that all leadership which could have provided that guidance will now be gone.
Just as bad, we can see this as meaning all of these boards will be filled with people who swear allegiance to the governor and the GOP and their stated goals, rather than including a mixture of people with divergent backgrounds and views.
Don’t get us wrong, we understand when a person wins the governor’s seat, when a political party takes control of a state government, those people get to fill vacant commission seats. That’s the way it has always been. The Democrats have lived with that privilege in North Carolina for more than a century, and now it’s the Republicans’ turn.
But a move like this is simply an overreaching power grab and nothing more.
We have never been a fan of former Gov. Bev Perdue, and we think that sentiment is shared by a majority of North Carolina residents. However, if McCrory and the GOP leaders in Raleigh don’t soon come to their senses and realize they are to represent the residents of the state and not some party ideology or business interests, we all will soon be pining for the good old Perdue days and wondering if we’ve elected a new governor or a monarch.