North Carolina House and Senate Republicans are likely headed to negotiations over how to retool the composition of several key state commissions controlled by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's appointees after the House approved its version of the changes on Wednesday.
Both the House proposal and a version OK'd by the Senate in April would shift the makeup of a handful of panels by giving more seats to those picked by legislators and Council of State members, and even to legislators themselves.
Differences between the competing plans will need to be worked out if they want to send a final bill to Cooper's desk.
Cooper and his allies have called the proposed reworking of appointments to commissions like those setting electricity rates and approving road-building projects and environmental regulations an unconstitutional power grab.
They cite state court rulings going back 40 years on the separation of powers between the governor and the General Assembly. Cooper and GOP legislators have previously fought in court over control of commissions as well.
While Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers, lawmakers shepherding the bill acknowledge litigation may be coming if a final measure is enacted. Still, they believe the courts will be on their side, and argue any changes will bring more accountability and diversity of thought on important boards dominated by the governor’s picks.
The differences between the two versions settle in a few areas.
The Senate version would reduce the seven members on the state Utilities Commission — all Cooper's picks — to five, and let future governors pick only two of the positions. The House version makes no such changes.
The House proposal would increase the number of voting members the General Assembly elects to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors from 24 to 28. The Senate makes no such changes. The General Assembly passed legislation during the 2010s to reduce Board of Governors membership from 32 to 24.
Both chambers' plans would let the Legislature pick 14 of the 20 seats on the Board of Transportation, with the other six appointed by the governor. Currently it's the governor who chooses 14 members.
But the House plan would replace the 20 members with new appointees starting July 1. The Senate would have allowed members to complete their terms.
Like the passage of the Senate legislation, the House approved its legislation on a party-line vote favoring the GOP.