The General Assembly will convene Wednesday at noon for the opening of the Long Session of the 2017-18, off what looms as an acrimonious struggle between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and the newly minted Democrat governor, Roy Cooper.
Already both sides have taken shots at each other, with the General Assembly moving to limit some of the powers of the governor during a special session going into the end of the year, and Cooper looking to expand Medicaid without the assent of the General Assembly, which would be a violation of a 2013 state law.
The General Assembly, led by veto-proof GOP majorities in the House and Senate, moved to, among other things, adjust the relationship between the superintendent of public instruction and the Department of Education, giving more power to the superintendent and pulling power from the governor.
The law also pulls appointments to the board of trustees for the public state universities from the governor and gives the Senate confirmation authority of cabinet-level appointees the governor would nominate.
On Cooper’s side, the new governor has said that he will seek the expansion of Medicaid that in recent years former Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature refused to support.
Days after taking the oath of office, while addressing a group of business leaders at an economic forum Cooper announced his intention to expand Medicaid by executive action. He specified he would file an amendment to the state Medicaid plan with the federal body over Medicaid, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
But Cooper’s actions may be all for naught if President-elect Donald Trump can make good on his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Senate Leader Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) issued a statement following Cooper’s announcement. “Just days into his term as governor, Roy Cooper already intends to violate his oath of office with a brazenly illegal attempt to force a massive, budget-busting Obamacare expansion on North Carolina taxpayers,” Berger said. “Cooper is three strikes and out on his attempt to break state law. He does not have the authority to unilaterally expand Obamacare, his administration cannot take steps to increase Medicaid eligibility, and our Constitution does not allow him to spend billions of state tax dollars we don’t have to expand Obamacare without legislative approval.”
Berger, in conjunction with Speaker of the House Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), sent a letter to the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asking that Cooper’s “illegal request for expansion” be denied.
The letter said that Cooper “does not have the legal authority to submit” a state plan for expansion because the General Assembly retains the power of the purse under the state Constitution.
With possible 2017 legislative elections on the horizon threatening the GOP super majorities in the House and Senate, what the future holds for the relationship between the Governor and the Legislature is anything but certain.