Emergency powers amendment lacks juice

H.B. 564 needs all Republicans and some Democrats before it reaches voters

A bill limiting the governor’s emergency powers passed the N.C. House last month. It sits in a Senate committee. Because it didn’t get a veto-proof majority in the House, the bill probably will stay there.

Rep. Keith Kidwell, a Beaufort County Republican, and a few GOP colleagues tried to up the ante this week. They introduced House Bill 564, a proposed constitutional amendment setting a hard 30-day cap on any executive order that declares “a statewide state of emergency or directs the spending of State funds without the expressed authorization by the General Assembly.” (Snarky aside: Bill Drafting could use some grammar coaching.) The order could be renewed for an extra 30 days if the Council of State OKs it. To extend it past 60 days, the governor would have to call a special legislative session and get lawmakers’ assent.

Much like the House bill that’s parked in the Senate Rules Committee, I don’t expect Kidwell’s amendment to go anywhere. To get on the 2022 ballot, it would need 60% support in the House and the Senate. It has only a handful of sponsors. No Democrats. It’ll need not only unanimous GOP support, but also a few Democrats to hit the 60% threshold.

I emailed Kidwell’s office, asking if he had any informal backing from Democrats, or any idea when the bill might move. No response.

Share Deregulator

One of my first posts on this site, which The Dispatch kindly let me put into a national context, noted that North Carolina is one of only a handful of states letting its governor declare an indefinite statewide state of emergency with no outside oversight or veto power.

In early February, 35 states had put some limits on the governor’s power. Since then, legislatures in Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, and Utah have beefed up legislative oversight of their governors’ emergency authority.

A constitutional amendment which would take effect here in January 2025, after Gov. Roy Cooper leave office, might stand a chance of reaching voters. Backers could sell it honestly as a way to rebalance power in state government. Not just a dig at the current chief executive, who’s set records for vetoes issued and sustained (and overridden, for that matter) since he took office.

Instead, this seems more like a score-settler. The Tar Heel State is likely to stay in the minority, with a governor holding outsized emergency powers.

Who’s NOT running?

11th Congressional District

I recently quipped you couldn’t swing a dead bobcat without hitting a candidate hoping to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn in southwestern North Carolina’s 11th District. The charter member of Deregulator’s “Green Room Caucus” has attracted … rivals.

Just check this thread from Friend of the Newsletter Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University:

Five Democrats either in or at least having putting an official toe in the water; four others who probably aren’t running but have shown interest or been approached.

Along with Cawthorn, we have another Republican in and two others in the “mentioned” list. Plus, an unaffiliated hopeful.

As Asheville-based radio host (and also Friend of the Newsletter) Pete Kaliner has noted, the 11th District is GOP-friendly. A whole bunch of solid-red counties surround deep blue Asheville. 

Give a gift subscription

But we’ll have 14 new congressional districts next year. (Not jinxing it. We’re getting that new one.) It’s doubtful a GOP-run legislature would level the 11th’s Republican lean too much. Still, let’s wait for the maps and see how the incumbent and his challengers behave.

U.S. Senate

The slate of candidates and wannabes for retiring Sen. Richard Burr’s seat may rival the size of the 11th’s.

Two former GOP members of Congress are in, or likely to be: Mark Walker, who announced late last year; and Ted Budd, who’s not dispelling any rumors.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory entered this week.

First-term Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is considering a run as well. 

(UPDATE, April 18: Robinson removed this video from his YouTube page without explaining, the News & Observer reported. Using a state office to discuss campaign plans is a no-no, but the story noted that Robinson didn’t announce anything. Perhaps he took it down to avoid questions later.

UPDATE: April 20: Robinson said he wouldn’t run for Senate, though rumors now have him running for governor in 2024.)

Then there’s Lara Trump, the ex-president’s daughter-in-law. The North Carolina native and recently minted Fox News contributor will neither confirm nor deny rumors she’ll step in. But the folks at my old stomping ground, Carolina Journal, are hearing she won’t run.

As for Democrats, Mecklenburg County state Sen. Jeff Jackson launched his campaign last year, as did former Northampton County Sen. Erica Smith (who lost the 2020 Democratic primary to Chuck Schumer’s hand-picked candidate Cal Cunningham).

Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton is running, as is virologist Richard Watkins, CEO of the Science Policy Action Network.

Soon to enter? Former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Reports in March said she’d announce a run this month.

Like McCrory, Beasley has won a statewide election. In her case, twice: N.C. Court of Appeals in 2008, and N.C. Supreme Court in 2014. Last fall, she fell 401 votes short of winning a full term as chief justice.

Handicapping? Not from me. Not before the field rounds out, and possibly not until filing ends in mid-December.

Riddle Me This

How much time will legislative mapmakers give congressional and legislative candidates to figure out whether to run and who they’d like to represent before filing opens Dec. 6?

Media hits

A great chat with my friend Patrick Johnson on 94.3 The Game in Greenville about the sports gambling bill introduced in the General Assembly. You can listen to my segment, starting at the 30-minute mark.

The Richmond County Daily Journal published an op-ed version of Tuesday’s post on electing our elections chief. 

And I enjoyed my regular Wednesday morning segment on WPTF 680 with Scott Briggaman. It happens every week, 7:40 a.m. Check it out!

The Big 7-8 for Dave Edmunds

The Cardiff Crooner celebrated another one this week. I was lucky enough to see him play at a club in D.C. in the mid-’90s. He hits all the sweet spots.

Edmunds first recorded Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” as the leader of the power trio Love Sculpture in 1968. He continued to perform it until 2017, when he retired. Here’s a lovely live version:

Here’s a Chuck Berry number, with Dave and his squeeze-boxing fellow Welshman Geraint Watkins: