Judges hear arguments over restricting Cooper's powers

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Attorneys argued over whether new laws should remain in effect.

It's a classic, if not contentious, display of the American political system.

The battle between North Carolina's executive and legislative branches continued on Friday with attorneys arguing over whether new laws should remain in effect before the court fully considers the legality of those laws.

At stake Friday was House Bill 17, passed late last year by the GOP-controlled General Assembly. HB17 sharply reduces the number of appointees to state government Gov. Roy Cooper could make and required all of Cooper's top agency heads to be approved by the Senate, among other executive powers.

A second law, Senate Bill 4, changed how elections are run in the state. The election law removes from Cooper the right to appoint all members of the state elections board, and for Democrats to hold majorities on all county elections panels. Republicans would control elections during even-numbered years, when big races for president, legislature or other major statewide offices are held.

RELATED: Judges block North Carolina law limiting Governor Roy Cooper's powers

"We agree with the chief judge who said questions about these nominees' qualifications, potential conflicts of interest and willingness to follow the law are 'relevant and germane.' But for the governor's lawyer to compare a simple confirmation process to ensure transparency and accountability to our taxpayers to 'tyranny' makes absolutely no sense," said Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

"Does Gov. Cooper think Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a 'tyrant' for commanding answers from President Trump's cabinet nominees? Does Gov. Cooper think President Trump's cabinet should have been seated without Senate confirmation?" Auth added.

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Cooper's attorneys are asking the state Supreme Court to step in and again block the law.

The GOP-controlled legislature passed the law shortly before Cooper took office, one of several provisions approved to check Cooper's powers.

Cooper's attorneys say confirmation usurps his authority to carry out core executive functions. Republicans respond that the state Constitution gives senators "advice and consent" powers with gubernatorial appointees.

RELATED: Cooper names Cabinet members for commerce, gov't operations

The governor wants the law blocked at least until a hearing scheduled for March.

"We remain committed to the ongoing work of elections administration and ethics enforcement as the case moves through the courts," said Kim Westbrook Strach, acting executive director of the State Board of Elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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