- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law Friday the first bill he’s received from the General Assembly, a Republican measure reducing the membership of the University of North Carolina system board in the name of efficiency and effectiveness.

Cooper, who took office Jan. 1, announced he had signed the measure one day before a constitutional deadline for him to act. Without action, the bill would have still become law.

The bill drops the UNC Board of Governors from 32 voting members to 24 by mid-2019. Membership would fall to 28 this summer. The House and Senate elect the board over a four-year cycle.

Vetoing the measure was Cooper’s other option before Saturday night’s deadline, but an override would have been unlikely since it still passed the House and Senate by veto-proof margins and with bipartisan support. Cooper offered no statement on the legislation beyond the signing announcement.

UNC system President Margaret Spellings backed the reduction, saying it was keeping with the trend of making corporate boards smaller and suggested the governance system for the 17 campuses was unwieldly.

The bill passed despite complaints by Democrats it would make it harder to ensure minorities are adequately represented on the unpaid board. The sought-after positions often go to well-connected political donors of the majority party in each chamber.

There are currently six women board members and four black members. State law remains in place directing selections to the board be based in part on “their knowledge and understanding of the educational needs and desires of all the state’s citizens, and their economic, geographic, political, racial, gender and ethnic diversity.”

Republicans turned back Democratic amendments to the new law that would have required board choices to be appointed - not elected - and include graduates of historically black UNC campuses and people from rural areas, among other categories.

Cooper and GOP legislative leaders have tussled in court and in public statements since he was sworn in. Lawyers for the governors and legislators will be in court next week over a lawsuit Cooper filed challenging several laws the General Assembly approved in December that reduced or checked his powers.


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