NC governor signs bill curtailing successor's powers

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Friday signed legislation that will severely curtail the powers of his successor, Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper.

The Republican-dominated state legislature passed several measures dramatically overhauling the governor’s power in an unexpected special session just weeks before McCrory leaves office. Democrats argued that the moves amounted to a power grab aimed at undermining Cooper even before he takes office.

At least 18 people were arrested during protests against the Republican maneuvers Friday at the state capitol in Raleigh.

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The bill McCrory signed will limit the governor's power to make appointments to certain state boards including the Board of Elections.

It would create state and county boards of elections with equal numbers of Democratic and Republican members. Until now, the governor appointed three of the five members of the state Board of Elections, and county boards were made up of two members of the governor’s party and one member of the other party.

The measure will also identify candidates running for state Supreme Court seats by their party labels in primary elections. A Democratic candidate ousted a Republican incumbent in November’s elections, though both candidates ran without party labels, leaving a 4-3 Democratic majority on the high court.

Despite rumors, the Republican legislature did not bring up a bill to add more members to the high court.

The legislature also passed a bill that will give McCrory the power to appoint the head of the state’s Industrial Commission, which hears appeals of worker compensation claims, to a six-year term.

McCrory has not said whether he will sign another bill that would require Senate confirmation of the governor’s Cabinet. That bill, which also removes the governor’s ability to appoint members to the University of North Carolina system’s board of trustees, awaits final action in the state House before it reaches McCrory’s desk.

McCrory conceded defeat earlier this month after Cooper’s lead grew to more than 10,300 votes, out of more than 2.6 million votes cast. McCrory and his allies had initially pushed for recounts and raised concerns about illegal voting.

Republicans justified their unexpected actions by pointing to previous efforts by Democratic-led legislators, including Cooper, to reduce the governor’s power.

Cooper threatened to sue the Republican legislature over the new measures in a press conference on Thursday, calling the bills "more ominous" than any "partisan power grab."

“If I believe that any of these laws that they pass hurt working families or are unconstitutional, they will see me in court,” he said.

Ben Kamisar contributed.

This story was updated at 3:41 p.m.