Well, that's one way to stick it to the guy who beat you.
Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who describes portions of the recently passed legislation that significantly curbs the power of his successor, Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper, as “wrong and shortsighted,” signed it Monday anyway. Here’s what McCrory said in a statement:
“This … needs to be resolved through the leadership skills of the governor-elect,” McCrory said.
In other words: I don't agree with this, but I’ll sign it anyway. It’s your problem now.
After staying quiet for days about what he’d do, McCrory is signing a bill that even a former Republican North Carolina governor said had elements that went “too far.” It will, for the first time in decades, require Cooper to get approval by the state Senate for his Cabinet appointees and end his ability to appoint members to the board of trustees of the powerful University of North Carolina system. The measure would also drastically reduce the number of state employees the governor can directly hire and fire, from 1,500 to 425.
McCrory’s announcement that he would sign the legislation came just hours after a development in another North Carolina drama: the “bathroom bill.” Specifically, a move to repeal the controversial legislation that McCrory staked his job on (and that arguably cost him his job). McCrory conceded defeat earlier this month to Cooper, the first North Carolina governor in history to lose reelection.
On Monday morning, Cooper announced that the GOP-controlled legislature would convene to consider repealing the bathroom bill, which restricts what public restrooms and locker rooms transgender people can use and prohibits municipalities from passing LGBT-anti-discrimination bills.
The Charlotte City Council had just voted to get rid of its ordinance that lets transgender people use the public bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with, a measure North Carolina Republicans say forced them to pass a statewide law in March banning those kinds of ordinances.
On Monday, the Republican-controlled legislature blasted Cooper for “a dishonest and disingenuous attempt to take credit” for repealing the bathroom bill but essentially acknowledged the facts were right: They would consider repealing it if McCrory would call them into session.
And McCrory did request a session. Lawmakers will meet Wednesday to talk about undoing arguably the most controversial piece of legislation signed in modern North Carolina history — a bill they signed just nine months ago.
Here, too, McCrory took a jab at his successor. In a statement, McCrory’s press secretary, Graham Wilson, accused “the left” of manufacturing the bathroom debate:
“This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session.”
(Never mind that Cooper was very publicly urging the governor not to sign the new bathroom bill.)
So, are the two related — Cooper’s loud proclamation the bathroom bill would be repealed, and McCrory's decision to sign legislation to limit Cooper’s power? It's unclear.
But until Monday evening, it wasn't even clear whether McCrory would sign this last-minute bill that limits his successor's power.
He kept his head down last week while his party in the state legislature rushed through two bills aimed at reducing the governor’s influence in state government, the judicial branch, the education system and elections oversight, all while strengthening the GOP-dominated legislature’s influence in all those areas. In McCrory’s statement, he pushed back against some proposals to limit the governor’s power even further, like by moving major departments out of the governor’s authority and court-packing the state Supreme Court.
But he wasn’t opposed to it all. On Friday, McCrory signed legislation that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years. (The bill also contained a provision approving his chief of staff’s wife to the Industrial Commission.)
McCrory said nothing on the other, more controversial proposal until he announced Monday he decided to sign it, releasing one statement publicly — and sending another, unspoken message to his successor.