On Wednesday, the North Carolina House passed a bill that would transfer some appointment powers from the governor to other members of the executive branch and the General Assembly.
The Senate’s original bill version incorporated changes in appointment power over the N.C. Utilities Commission; however, the House revised the bill by removing a portion and instead introducing language to increase the number of members on the Board of Governors from 24 to 28.
During committee, Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell, noted that the Board of Governors used to be composed of 32 members before the legislature reduced it to 24 in 2017.
The House also made changes to end the terms of Department of Transportation board members this summer. The Senate version allowed DOT board members to finish their terms.
Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature, which means Governor Roy Cooper gets little to no say in policy changes unless he is willing to work with Republicans.
“These boards have independent functions outside of the legislative and executive branches and have significant rulemaking duties that impact state government,” Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a press release. “Yet they lack a diversity of thought that represents the state as a whole since all or a large majority of members are hand-picked by the Governor or serve in his administration. The rules and policies these boards and commissions make have a significant impact on the lives of North Carolinians, but there is little recourse for citizens to hold the boards accountable.”
Senate Bill 512 broadens the appointment authorities for membership between the executive branch – including members of the Council of State – and the General Assembly.
“These boards and commissions are charged with overseeing areas of state government that have a tremendous impact on our daily lives,” said Berger. “By balancing the membership of these unelected boards, we’re increasing the viewpoints on the boards by diversifying the appointing authorities.”
The appointments for boards and commissions changed in the current bill are as follows:
- The Economic Investment Committee
- The Environmental Management Commission
- The Commission for Public Health
- The Board of Transportation
- The Coastal Resources Commission
- The Wildlife Resources Commission
- The N.C. Railroad Board of Directors
- The UNC Health Care Board of Directors
The North Carolina Utilities Commission might be negotiated back in if the House and Senate chambers meet to discuss the bill in conference committee.
“North Carolinians expect their elected officials to represent their interests and hold decision-makers accountable for their actions,” said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke. “We cannot do that for these boards and commissions if the General Assembly and other elected officials don’t have a more considerable role in appointing members.”
The governor makes appointments to more than 350 boards and commissions, and over 600 appointments expire each year.
Economic Investment Committee: Adds two members. The membership would be comprised of the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Revenue, State Budget Director, two appointees from the General Assembly, the Speaker of the House or his designee, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate or his designee. Currently, there are only five members.
Environmental Management Commission: Changes the appointment authority mix. The Governor would appoint seven members, the General Assembly would appoint six members, and the Agriculture Commissioner would appoint two members. Currently, the Governor appoints nine members, and the General Assembly appoints six.
Commission for Public Health: Changes the appointment authority mix. The Governor would appoint five members, the General Assembly would appoint four, and the N.C. Medical Society would elect four members. Currently, the Governor appoints nine members and the N.C. Medical Society elects four members.
Board of Transportation: Changes the appointment structure. The General Assembly would appoint 14 members representing the 14 highway divisions, the Governor would appoint six at-large members, and the Secretary of Transportation would serve as a non-voting member. Currently, the Governor appoints 14 members representing the 14 highway divisions, the General Assembly appoints six at-large members, and the Secretary of Transportation serves as a non-voting member.
Coastal Resources Commission: Changes the appointment authority mix. The General Assembly would appoint six members, the Governor would appoint six members, and the Insurance Commissioner would appoint one member. Currently, the Governor appoints nine members, and the General Assembly appoints four.
Wildlife Resources Commission: Changes the appointment authority mix and adds two new members. The General Assembly would appoint 10 members, the Governor would appoint 10 members, and the Agriculture Commissioner would appoint one member. Currently, the Governor appoints 11 members, and the General Assembly appoints eight.
N.C. Railroad Board of Directors: Changes the appointment authority mix. The General Assembly would appoint six members, the Governor would appoint six members, and the State Treasurer would appoint one member. Currently, the Governor appoints seven members, and the General Assembly appoints six.
UNC Health Care Board of Directors: Changes the appointment authority mix and the number of administrators on the board. The board would be comprised of the UNC System President or his designee, the CEO of UNC Health Care, the UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor, the President of UNC Hospitals, 12 members appointed by the Board of Governors, and eight members appointed by the General Assembly. Currently, the board is comprised of the UNC System President, the CEO of UNC Health Care, the UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor, the UNC-Chapel Hill Administrative Officer, the President of UNC Hospitals, the President of the UNC Faculty Physicians, two members of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine Faculty, 12 members appointed by the Board of Governors and four appointed by the Board of Directors.
Three boards — the Environmental Management Commission, the Board of Transportation, and the Coastal Resources Commission — would elect their board chairs instead of having the Governor appoint the chair.
S.B. 512 goes to the Senate for a concurrence vote. If the Senate votes not to concur, the House and Senate will conference to work out the differences before the bill heads to Gov. Cooper, who will likely veto it.
The bill currently has enough support in both chambers to override Cooper’s veto.