NC governor’s race: Could there be a November legislative session to curb winner’s powers?

Welcome to the governor’s race edition of our Under the Dome politics newsletter. I’m Dawn Vaughan, The News & Observer’s state Capitol bureau chief.

The general election is Nov. 5, when North Carolina voters decide if they want Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein or Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson to be the state’s next governor.

The General Assembly may soon finish up its work for the 2024 legislative short session, unless it comes back later in the summer or even fall — which would happen if the House and Senate reach a budget compromise. Because state law doesn’t dictate when exactly a session must end, the legislature could come back anytime the majority’s leadership wants it to come back.

If history is any guide, that could even be in November, after the election.

Depending on who wins.

When outgoing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper won his first term in 2016, Republicans convened a session to put more limits on governor’s powers ahead of Cooper taking office. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who Cooper narrowly defeated, was still in office. The move drew national attention.

From left, Attorney General Josh Stein, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson
From left, Attorney General Josh Stein, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson

I asked Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, if there might be a November legislative session. Moore was dismissive. Berger left the door open to the possibility.

“I don’t know that I can say that I wanted or don’t want it at this point. I would say that, that’s something that’s kind of an open question at this point in time,” Berger told reporters on the Senate floor after a session Thursday.

He added that it depends on what happens between now and then.

Moore told reporters on Thursday that once there’s a “cooling off” on budget negotiations in July, and maybe August, lawmakers could come back in September for a session. Asked about a November session, Moore said that “would be very unusual. I certainly hope not. I wouldn’t anticipate that we would.”

He said the House hasn’t had any discussions with the Senate about it.

McCrory signed the 2016 restrictions on Cooper and future governors’ appointment and hiring power, amid protests and Democrats calling it a “power grab.”

State budgets often include policy, including recent curbs on the governor’s power during states of emergency, as I’ve previously reported. A new law began in 2023 in response to Republicans’ dissatisfaction with how Cooper handled COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers, meaning they have the required three-fifths’ votes to overturn a veto.

Stay informed about #ncpol

Don’t forget to follow our Under the Dome tweets and listen to our Under the Dome podcast to stay up to date. Our new episode posts Monday morning, and I’m joined by politics reporter Kyle Ingram and environment and climate change reporter Adam Wagner.

You can sign up to receive the Under the Dome newsletter at Want your friends to get our email, too? Forward them this newsletter so they can sign up.