A state House committee voted on a different version of a controversial Senate bill, would clear out members of several boards and commissions
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina Senate on Thursday passed a controversial bill that would replace current members of several state regulatory and policy boards and let GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and party legislative leaders make their own picks.
The final vote on the bill was 35-14, with two Democrats (Clark & Jenkins) joining the GOP majority. Click here to see a research document outlining the costs associated with the proposal.
The bill dismisses all current members of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, state Industrial Commission, Coastal Resources Commission and state Lottery Commission. Other panels labeled obsolete would be eliminated or reduced in size.
Sponsor Sen. Bill Rabon of Southport acknowledged the bill would give McCrory the ability to set his own mark in government but denied it was a Republican power grab. He says it should make the state more efficient and save $2 million.
Sen. Rabon says he knew about the amendments being added to the original bill, but he has no concerns about them.
"We are changing direction in North Carolina," he told WECT's Jon Evans. "We are making changes to facilitate the moves that will get us where we want to go."
Rabon says the move is not unprecedented. He mentioned former Governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin making similar changes to state boards. " Governor Hunt would increase the size of some boards, to gain domination by his party," Rabon said.
Democratic Sen. Josh Stein said the changes were breathtaking in scope. Others in Raleigh have openly criticized the proposal.
"This unprecedented power grab would only heighten Pat McCrory's conflicts of interest, as McCrory and his party would be able to appoint all members of the Utilities Commission," said Gerrick Brenner, the Executive Director of Progress North Carolina. "McCrory's former employer, Duke Energy, wants to raise electricity rates on North Carolina families, and McCrory's Utilities Commission would be in a position to rubber stamp those rate hikes."
According to the General Assembly's Research Division, the significant changes in the bill would:
- reduce Coastal Resources Commission membership from 15 to 11 and end current members' terms when bill becomes law. All 15 are now appointed by the governor. Four of the 11 would be appointed by legislative leaders.
- reduce membership of Coastal Resources Advisory Council from 45 members to 20 and end current members' terms June 30. At least half of the new members must live at the coast.
- reduce Environmental Management Commission membership from 19 to 13 and reduce the number appointed by the governor from 13 to seven. Current members' terms expire when the bill becomes law.
- end terms of current Industrial Commission members April 15, provide for staggered terms and reduce terms of new members from six to four years.
- end terms of current Utilities Commission members when the bill becomes law and reduces terms from eight to six years.
- give General Assembly leaders two extra appointments on the Wildlife Resources Commission. Current members' terms would end June 30. All terms would now be two years.
- eliminate 12 Special Superior Court judge positions effective July 1. Governors have had power to appoint such judgeships.
- end the nine-member North Carolina Turnpike Authority and give the board's power to the Board of Transportation.
- place limits on serving on the State Board of Elections to three four-year terms and declares vacant board positions where the person currently is in a fourth or greater consecutive term.
- direct the governor to appoint the chairman of the State Board of Education. Board members currently choose the chairman.
- end the terms of current members on the State Lottery Commission when the bill become law and reduce terms from five to two years.
- allow the governor, state public safety secretary or a certified law enforcement officer to supervise sworn members of the State Highway Patrol. Current law gives such authority to the governor, public safety secretary or a uniformed patrol member.
Click here to see the entire bill, including the amendment.
Copyright 2013 WECT. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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