GOP leaders reject Gov. Cooper's order for special session on redistricting

Updated: Jun. 8, 2017 at 2:25 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WECT/AP) - Republican leaders in the General Assembly are pushing back against Governor Roy Cooper's call for a special legislative session to redraw voting maps, after the U.S. Supreme Court found current lines unconstitutional.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest ordered the Senate Principal Clerk to rescind the Extra Session Senate Calendar scheduled to start Thursday afternoon.

House Republicans on Thursday upheld a ruling by Speaker Tim Moore that the "extra session" was unnecessary and invalid, in part because lawmakers already are in their annual work session. That means the Thursday afternoon session Cooper wanted won't occur.

"Now the Republican legislature is thumbing its nose at the North Carolina Constitution as well as the US Supreme Court," Ford Porter, spokesman for Gov. Cooper said in an email news release. "It's troubling that they prefer to fight about the process rather than draw the new map that North Carolina voters deserve to level the playing field of our democracy. The US Supreme Court was unanimous in its decision and there is no reason to delay the drawing of new maps."

Cooper is trying to force the hand of GOP legislators to quickly redraw nearly 30 House and Senate districts after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week upholding a lower court decision striking down the lines as illegal racial gerrymanders.

"Governor Cooper has no constitutional role in redistricting and his latest political stunt is an effort to deter House lawmakers from our work on a bipartisan budget that received support from both parties," House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said in a news release. "The North Carolina House of Representatives fully intends to comply with a federal court's order to redraw our legislative maps, however, we do not yet have guidance from the court on how to do so, nor have we been given time to undertake a comprehensive redistricting process with sufficient notice and opportunities for public input."

"Despite all his talk about separation of powers, it's clear Roy Cooper wants to be North Carolina's governor, legislature, and with this latest stunt, its judiciary too," Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) said in a statement released by the office of Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). "The courts have yet to give the legislature direction on this matter, and we will be prepared to undertake a thorough redistricting process with ample notice and opportunities for public input when they do.

In the email news release, GOP leaders claim Cooper's actions violate Article III, Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution, which allows him to call for an extra session "on extraordinary occasions, by and with the advice of the Council of State."

Copyright 2017 WECT. The Associated Press contributed to this report.