Gov. Roy Cooper gave his State of the State address on Monday, March 13 in the legislative building in Raleigh. He smiled a lot, but it’s hard to believe he was enjoying himself.
Both the state House and Senate have veto-proof Republican majorities and there was very little applause from the Republican legislators.
Cooper said he wanted to work with the legislature, but he has already filed three lawsuits trying to use the courts to overturn action the legislature has taken. Suing people doesn’t usually lead to cooperation.
As state attorney general, Cooper also refused to defend some of the laws passed by the Republican legislature when they were challenged in court, even though that was his job.
To top it off, there is the whole House Bill 2, “the bathroom bill,” issue. In particular, Cooper ordered the Democrats to vote against the repeal legislation that was before the legislature in a special session in December when Cooper was governor-elect but hadn’t been sworn into office.
To say there is a lack of trust between the governor and the Republican-led legislature would be an understatement, and Cooper didn’t help his cause by coming to the floor of the House smiling like a possum and saying things the legislator knew weren’t true.
Cooper said that if the legislature passed a straight repeal of HB2 he would sign it the same day. But what legislators know is that when a straight repeal of HB2 was on the floor of the Senate for a vote in December, Cooper ordered the Democrats to vote against it.
Democratic state Sen. Joel Ford said that the Democrats in the Senate didn’t have a problem with the repeal, even when a moratorium was attached, but when Cooper told them to vote against it they did, even when the moratorium was taken off the bill and it was a straight repeal.
If Cooper is actually in favor of the repeal of HB2, why did he order the Senate Democrats to vote against it? In December,16 Republican senators voted in favor of repealing HB2 and not a single Democrat.
One thing it proves is that Cooper is definitely calling the shots for the Democrats in the legislature.
The belief held by many Republicans is that Cooper doesn’t want HB2 repealed because, as long as the law is in place, he can raise campaign funds nationwide. Once HB2 is repealed the campaign donors in other parts of the country won’t have a good reason to send big bucks to North Carolina.
According to Republicans, Cooper has killed all the attempts to repeal HB2 by lobbying against the various compromises when he was a gubernatorial candidate and by being more forceful after he was elected governor.
It was kind of odd in his speech that Cooper didn’t give any credit to Republicans for the improvements in the state’s economy. But what was even stranger is that he didn’t mention his predecessor, former Gov. Pat McCrory. Cooper talked about the natural disasters and rebuilding Eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew, but he didn’t say anything about the work that McCrory did while that disaster was unfolding.
He could have made a joke about it, since the hurricane plus the fires in the western part of the state kept McCrory off the campaign trail, or he could have simply thanked McCrory for the hard work he had done.
McCrory and Cooper certainly had, and have, serious political disagreements, but not recognizing his predecessor for the good work he did during natural disasters made Cooper look like a small man.
If Cooper came down to the legislature to begin mending fences, he didn’t do a good job. The Republicans sat on their hands with blank stares, looking at their watches during most of the speech.
Cooper talked about how, when he was in the Senate, there was a Democratic majority in the Senate and a Republican majority in the House but they managed to work out compromises and get things done.
But there was no sign in his speech that he remembered how to compromise.
It looks like it’s going to be a long four years for Cooper, and after that speech, the Republican legislators are probably looking for some way to take away more of Cooper’s power.
The impression was that if Cooper vetoes a bill, the Republicans will relish the opportunity to override his veto.