State judges issued a split decision in the fight between the legislature and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper over the executive powers of the governor.
The legislature approved, and outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory signed, legislation that limited some of the powers of the governor as 2016 came to a close, including giving the Senate confirmation authority over the governor’s cabinet nominees and rolling the State Board of Elections and Ethics Board under one banner.
The panel reversed the changes that would have drawn together the State Board of Elections and the state Ethics Commission. The judges also reversed a change that would have classified many of McCrory’s political appointees as non-exempt positions, giving them the protection regular civil service positions have.
But a major change that was upheld was the Senate confirmation process for the governor’s cabinet appointments.
Article III, Sec. 5(8) in the State Constitution bolstered the legitimacy of the confirmation process:, “The Governor shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of a majority of the Senators appoint all officers whose appointments are not otherwise provided for.”
However, Cooper’s attorneys argued against the law, saying the changes skewed the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches and made it difficult for him to carry out the duties of his office.
A statement from Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley makes it clear the case is not closed for Cooper.
“We’re pleased the trial court ruled two of these three laws unconstitutional, and we believe strongly that the Supreme Court ultimately will agree with us on all three,” she said in a release.
From Senate Leader Phil Berger’s camp, spokeswoman Shelly Carver said, “It is encouraging the court recognized the plain language in our state’s constitution providing for a transparent confirmation process for unelected cabinet secretaries who control multibillion-dollar budgets and make decisions affecting millions of everyday North Carolinians.
“However, it is disappointing that two judges awarded Gov. Cooper, who has made several ethically questionable decisions recently, total control of the ethics oversight of elected officials, instead of upholding a bipartisan board that North Carolinians can trust to settle ethics decisions and election outcomes fairly. A decision on whether to seek additional remedies through the court system or the legislative process will be made following further review of the court’s order.”