#ncga: In planning for 2017, harken back to the 80s

Yes, it was a good decade.  I was a rookie in the political game.  Republicans won the lieutenant governship, governorship, and president.  The Reagan Revolution — we thought — was being extended by four years in Washington.  And Jesse Helms and John East were making us proud in DC.

In 2017,  North Carolina Republicans will find themselves in a scenario similar to what Democrats on Jones Street faced in 1985.  In the wake of a gubernatorial defeat.   Strong majorities, but the other party sitting in that house on Blount Street.   Amid all of the nanny-nanny-boo-boos from the Democrats this year, it might be worthwhile to revisit the tactics Democrats perpetrated in the mid to late 80s:

[…] From 1985-89, Bob Jordan was not only Lieutenant Governor but also the titular head of the Democratic Party in opposition to Republican Gov. James G. Martin. If there was going to be a Democratic Party program, it would fall to Jordan to present the party’s program to the Senate and to the people of North Carolina. This combination of Republican Governors, a new right of succession, an expanded staff and budget, and new appointment powers resulted in formidable responsibility for the office of Lieutenant Governor.[…]

Mr. Forest, meet Mr. Jordan.  

Let’s take a look at how the lieutenant governor’s powers have changed:

[…] As Jordan went out of office, the Lieutenant Governor had 11 powers, but they came from three different sources-the state Constitution, state statutes, and Senate rules. Most politically savvy observers knew that the Lieutenant Governor appointed committees and their chairmen, and that he assigned bills to committee, but few knew that those powers came from easily changed Senate rules and not from the bedrock authority of the state Constitution. The 11 powers (two have since been dropped) and their origins were as follows:

A. Powers from the State Constitution

1. The power to succeed the Governor (from Article III, Section 3(1) of the Constitution);
2. The power to serve as acting Governor in the Governor’s absence from the state or during the physical or mental incapacity of the Governor (Article III, Section 3(2);
3. Membership on the Council of State (Article III, Section 8) and on the State Board of Education (Article IX, Section 4(1) of the Constitution;
4. The power to preside over the Senate and control floor debate (Article III, Section 6 and Article II, Section 13);
5. The power to vote in case of ties (Article II, Section 13);
6. The duty to sign bills when presiding over the Senate (Article II, Section 22);
7. The power to perform such additional duties as the Governor and the General Assembly may assign him (Article III, Section 6);

B. Powers from State Statutes

8. The power to make outright or to recommend to the General Assembly 195 appointments to 87 boards and commissions in the executive branch (under N.C.G.S. 120-121 and 120-123 and various other state statutes; see Tables 1 and 2);
9. Membership on: the State Board of Community Colleges, N.C.G.S. 115D-2.1(b)(1); the Economic Development Board, N.C.G.S. 143B-434(a); the Capital Planning Commission, N.C.G.S. 143B-374; the Council on Interstate Cooperation, N.C.G.S. 143B-380; the N.C. Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, N.C.G.S. 143-564(b)(2); the Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, N.C.G.S. 143-533 (ex officio); the Computer Commission, N.C.G.S. 143-426.21 (ex officio); and the N.C. Teaching Fellows Commission, N.C.G.S. 115C-363.23(a)(2).

C. Powers from Senate Rules (not applicable in the 1989 General Assembly)

10. The power to appoint committees and committee chairman (1987-88 Senate Rule 31); and
11. The power to assign bills to committee (1987-88 Senate Rule 43).

Unbeknownst to most voters, Senate rules can be changed at the beginning of a legislative session by a majority vote of the Senate and thereafter by a two-thirds vote. State statutes can be changed by a majority vote of the N.C. Senate and N.C. House of Representatives. This scenario makes the powers of the Lieutenant Governor that originate in Senate rules or state statutes much more susceptible to change than those derived from the Constitution. Amendments to the Constitution must be approved by a three-fifths vote in the General Assembly and then by a majority of the voters. When the voters elected Jim Gardner on Nov. 8, 1988, the N.C. Senate Democrats immediately made plans to revise Senate rules and vest the authority to refer bills and appoint committees in someone other than a Republican Lieutenant Governor.The Democratic caucus voted on Nov. 25, 1988 to give the power of bill referral to the Senate principal clerk, allowing the Senate Rules Committee chairman, a Democrat, to resolve any disputes. The power to appoint committee chairmen (and Democratic members of Senate committees) was given to the Senate President Pro-Tempore, Henson Barnes (D-Wayne), who was nominated by the Democratic caucus on Dec. 1, 1988, and formally elected by the Senate on Jan. 11, 1989. The rules changes were adopted the same day.

Gardner and Republican legislative leaders had warned it would be politically unwise to remove these powers, saying it would anger voters and make it difficult for Democrats to defend such actions in 1990 when they run for re-election. Gardner characterized the move as “stripping” the Lieutenant Governor’s powers, an image of Democrats taking away something that belonged  to the office of Lieutenant Governor by right. By contrast, Democrats defended the actions as consistent with the principle of majority rule. In words soon echoed by other Democratic leaders, Senator Barnes said the Senate has given away too much of its authority in prior years. He said that the powers of appointing committees and assigning bills belonged to the party holding a majority in the Senate, not to a presiding officer of the minority party.[…]

Here’s an interesting idea, once floated by Democrats, that could inspire General Assembly Republicans and send shivers down some spines in Elaine Marshall’s office: 

[…] Jordan also remembers one other possibility that had been discussed-that of combining the duties of the Lieutenant Governor and the Secretary of State. He served on a 1977 legislative study commission which considered combining the two offices when Thad Eure retired (which occurred in January 1989). The Lieutenant Governors of Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah have statutory authority to perform a number of duties normally associated with secretaries of state-supervision of elections, commissioning notaries public, and maintenance of official state laws and agency rules.[…] 

Hmmm.  Bureaucratic consolidation.   That WAS a Democrat idea.   Might provide the best way to get Elaine Marshall off the government dole.  The NCGOPe has done an incredibly lackluster job of fielding candidates against her the last 20 years.