- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Latest on the special session being held by the North Carolina General Assembly (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

More protesters have been charged with creating a disturbance during a special session of the North Carolina legislature where Republicans are passing bills that reduce the power of incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock said officers on Thursday arrested 16 people who shouted, chanted and refused to leave the House gallery. Speaker Tim Moore ordered the gallery cleared during a disturbance while lawmakers debated a bill that would require Cooper’s Cabinet secretaries be confirmed by the Senate.

Those arrested were led away in plastic handcuffs. Brock says they would be charged with second-degree trespassing and violating building rules.

Hundreds chanted outside the Legislative Building rotunda while the House went into recess during the arrests.

The Senate cleared its gallery early Thursday when a disturbance occurred during debate on another measure.

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4:25 p.m.

Protesters of plans by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature to reduce upcoming Democratic influence in state government have been removed from the Senate gallery after repeated disruptions during floor debate.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, the Senate’s presiding officer, ordered the gallery above the floor be cleared Thursday afternoon after what he considered multiple disturbances.

Many spectators had laughed when a Republican made a comment about legislation that would merge the state’s elections and ethics boards into a panel evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Without the change Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper would soon appoint a majority of Democrats to the state elections board.

Demonstrators continued to chant in the rotunda of the Legislative Building after they were thrown out. No arrests occurred. The Senate went into recess for about a half-hour until they passed the bill along party-lines. The bill now goes to the Senate.

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1:15 p.m.

People protesting Republican plans to limit Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s power have descended again on the Legislative Building with longshot hopes of derailing the GOP legislation.

About 200 demonstrators led by the state NAACP filled a first-floor Legislative Building atrium on Thursday. They demanded loudly that Republicans accept the will of the voters in last month’s election and leave Cooper’s powers alone. The NAACP and its allies have been protesting against GOP policies on topics like voting rights and Medicaid since 2013.

Protester Margaret Toman of Garner says she came because she believes democracy is being undermined by the Republicans.

Democratic legislators urged protesters to fight on. Sen. Mike Woodard of Durham said they could make a big difference next fall during a scheduled special election for General Assembly members.

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11:40 a.m.

Attorney General Roy Cooper says he’s ready to fight Republican legislation moving through the General Assembly’s special session that would hobble the Democrat when he becomes governor in a few weeks.

Cooper said Thursday he’ll sue lawmakers if he thinks laws they’re passing are unconstitutional or hurt working people.

Cooper lashed out against proposed legislation aimed at preventing him from shaving away at recent GOP initiatives. Cooper says while Republican lawmakers aim to cripple his powers, the effect is to protect programs that transfer taxpayer money to private schools, allow increased pollution of air and water, and cut taxes for big corporations instead of the middle class.

Cooper promised he’d fight the proposed legislation that he called “unprecedented.

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11:20 a.m.

Legislation pushed by North Carolina’s Republican dominated legislature aimed at limiting Democrat Roy Cooper’s powers when he becomes governor next month has cleared several General Assembly committees.

A Senate panel approved a bill Thursday that would merge North Carolina’s elections and ethics panels. Current law would give Cooper control over the State Board of Elections and allow a majority of Democrats on it. The proposed board would be split between Democrats and Republicans and allow lawmakers to choose half the members.

GOP Sen. Tommy Tucker says the bill would take partisanship out of administering elections, but Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick says the legislation is an attempt to deny the governor power he currently has.

A House committee also approved a bill Thursday making Cooper’s Cabinet choices subject to Senate confirmation.

8:40 a.m.

Republicans at the General Assembly appear ready to undermine North Carolina Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s powers before he takes office next month.

GOP lawmakers participating in a special session scheduled committee meetings Thursday to consider bills that would reshape parts of state government and Cooper’s relations with the legislature.

One measure would require Cooper’s Cabinet choices to get Senate confirmation and scale back dramatically the number of at-will political appointees Cooper can hire. Another measure would merge the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission.

Democrats are furious about the goals of the second special session this week, calling it a power grab after the voters picked Cooper over Republican Gov. Pat McCrory last month. A special session that closed Wednesday located $200 million for hurricane and wildfire relief.

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