N. Carolina governor sticks with GOP, diminishing successor

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2016 5:52 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The last significant act of outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's tempestuous administration has been to go along with GOP legislators and sign into law at least one quickly put together bill that will diminish the power of his Democratic successor.

McCrory must still decide whether to sign a second bill passed by a Republican-dominated General Assembly that has repeatedly tugged the man who campaigned in 2012 as Charlotte's moderate former mayor into hard-right turf. Lawmakers' veto-proof majorities since 2013 and the uncompetitive election districts they drew in 2011 have allowed legislative Republicans to ignore Democratic viewpoints and sometimes McCrory's desires.

McCrory's years have been marked by political battles between the governor, entrenched legislators, and Democrats fighting for their priorities in a state where political opinions remain evenly divided.

Here are some of the flashpoints of McCrory's term:

LGBT RIGHTS AND BATHROOMS

McCrory became the national face of a state law focused on limiting LGBT protections. He opted against calling legislators into a special session to overturn a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance allowing transgender people to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify. But lawmakers took the initiative anyway, saying they were protecting women and girls from predators masquerading as transgender to enter bathrooms and shower stalls.

McCrory signed the resulting law, which limited protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and reaffirmed that local governments can't require area businesses to pay a minimum wage higher than the statewide minimum wage. Major companies, conventions, musicians and sports leagues reacted by shunning North Carolina, costing jobs and millions of dollars in revenues.

The U.S. Justice Department sued the state and its public university system. McCrory never quit defending the law. About two-thirds of voters said they opposed it, according to exit polls. McCrory was narrowly defeated last month by Democrat Roy Cooper, the governor-elect, who opposed it.

VOTING RIGHTS

In mid-2013, McCrory signed into law a sweeping change in voting law. It required voters to show one of six types of photo IDs deemed valid, curtailed early voting, eliminated same-day registration and ended voters' ability to cast out-of-precinct provisional ballots in their home counties.

McCrory focused on the photo ID requirement as a common-sense condition to ensure election integrity. The Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared in July the law was carefully crafted to make it harder for blacks to vote. A three-judge panel wrote that "the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history."

A separate federal court panel declared last month that more than two dozen of the legislative districts lawmakers drew for themselves were illegal racial gerrymanders. The court ruled legislators so diminished minority voting power to favor of Republican candidates that new elections are required next year rather than 2018.

ENVIRONMENT

McCrory spent nearly 30 years working for Duke Energy, now the country's largest electricity company. Questions over whether his loyalties to his long-time employer were at odds with the public good have focused on the aftermath of a coal-ash spill into the Dan River.

Coal ash is the byproduct of decades of burning coal to generate electricity, and it contains toxic materials including arsenic and mercury. The February 2014 coal ash spill prompted state legislation to force Duke Energy to excavate or close off its dumps.

REACTION BY OPPONENTS

Democrats and allied liberal groups reacted forcefully to conservative policies like refusing federally-funded Medicaid expansion, cutting unemployment benefits and spending taxpayer dollars for tuition to private schools.

The NAACP and other critics responded with unprecedented protests and civil disobedience, which led to the arrest of more than 1,000 demonstrators in over four years.

Fifty-six people were arrested in the latest round of demonstrations on Thursday and Friday, General Assembly police said.

Early on, McCrory claimed in 2013 he mingled among the protesters, telling a reporter he went "out in the crowd all the time." Days later, his spokeswoman said that wasn't true.

SOCIAL ISSUES

McCrory pledged during a gubernatorial debate in 2012 that if he were elected he would not sign any new abortion restrictions into law.

Seven months after taking office, he signed into law a measure that invited standards for abortion clinics on par with outpatient surgical centers, a change critics worried would force them to close. When abortion rights advocates demonstrated outside his official residence hours later, McCrory personally delivered them a plate of cookies.

Protesters called it condescending. McCrory also signed laws extending the abortion waiting period to three days from one and forcing physicians who perform certain late-term abortions to send ultrasound images to state officials.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio.