Outgoing North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed a measure limiting the powers of his soon-to-be Democratic successor, Roy Cooper, a move critics are calling an unprecedented power grab orchestrated by the state's Republican-controlled legislature.
The bill McCrory signed on Friday merges the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission into one entity comprised equally of Democrats and Republicans. Previous state law would have allowed Cooper to put a majority of Democrats on the board, which sets the rules for the state's notoriously burdensome balloting.
The measure also makes elections for appellate court judgeships partisan by requiring candidates to be listed on the ballot alongside their political party.
Protesters packed the halls of the General Assembly Friday as lawmakers voted on another bill that would require Senate confirmation for cabinet appointments. The state Senate voted to approve that measure Friday afternoon, sending it back to the state House for final consideration.
At least 16 people were arrested Friday, according to General Assembly police.
The series of measures were introduced in a surprise move Wednesday during a special session ostensibly called by the General Assembly to consider relief for Hurricane Matthew victims. Lawmakers did indeed approve a $201 million aid package earlier in the day, but then moved onto the legislation aimed at curbing the power of Cooper, who beat Republican McCrory last month by about 10,000 votes.