With about a month remaining before his successor takes office, Gov. Pat McCrory is urging North Carolina state legislators to get back to Raleigh and make relief provisions for victims of Hurricane Matthew.
McCrory, who conceded election defeat yesterday to Democratic challenger Roy Cooper, requested a special session for the General Assembly to be held on Dec. 13. He made the request at the fifth and final regional meeting of his Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee, held Friday in Lenoir County.
“I want to thank the communities for their feedback and the members of the committee for their tireless work to help North Carolina recover,” McCrory said in a press release. “While this is the final regional meeting, our work to help those in need is far from complete.”
Initial reports indicated the storm has cost the state $2 billion in economic damage.
State Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Durham, said economic relief is vital in communities that lost infrastructure in the storm.
“Businesses, roadways, facilities … we have to make sure that the communities are rebuilt, so they can be fully functioning communities with strong local economies,” Meyer said. “The state can play a very important role in trying to accelerate that progress.”
Meyer said the General Assembly does not have enough money in its existing budget to allow state agencies to address these repairs.
Meyer said the Democrats are concerned, however, that McCrory may have scheduled the session with more in mind than just disaster relief. He said there are no rules that limit the scope of a special session, meaning that the General Assembly could address political issues.
The North Carolina Constitution states in Article IV section 6 that the state Supreme Court may consist of a chief justice and six associate justices, but that a maximum of eight associate justices are allowed. The N.C. Supreme Court currently has six associate justices in addition to the chief justice.
The balance of the current state Supreme Court turned Democratic in November, when Democratic-affiliated Judge Mike Morgan defeated incumbent and Republican-affiliated Justice Bob Edmunds.
Republicans could use their supermajority in the General Assembly to flip the state Supreme Court by approving two Republican-affiliated associate justices appointed by Gov. McCrory before he leaves office.
Should the General Assembly add two associate justices, Republicans would represent a 5-4 majority in the state’s highest court.
Brian Balfour, executive vice president of the conservative-leaning Civitas Institute, said the public has no reason currently to believe that extension of power will occur.
“I have not heard any word outside of rumors largely circulated by the media and left-wing organizations,” he said. "Until actions are actually taken, I will assume these are just rumors."
Political analyst Gary Pearce warned Republicans against packing the court, as it could hurt the party’s chances in future elections — which, due to a federal court ruling North Carolina’s legislative voting maps unconstitutional, could be as soon as 2017.
“If the Republicans go through with this court-packing scheme, it will be seen for what it is — an arrogant and corrupt power grab, an attempt to override the people’s decision in an election and a black mark for North Carolina,” Pearce said in an email.
Meyer said it would be logistically possible for Republicans to add justices in one session.
“It took less than 12 hours to pass House Bill 2 in a special session,” Meyer said. “If they want to do it, they can do it in one day.”
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