NC Supreme Court weighs important judgment on government powers

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The battle between North Carolina's executive and legislative branches was front and center in the state's highest courtroom on Monday,

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

The battle between North Carolina's executive and legislative branches was front and center in the state's highest courtroom on Monday, with attorneys arguing over whether a new election law passed last year is unconstitutional.

At stake is Senate Bill 4, which changed how elections are run in the state, including the merging of the State Ethics Commission and Board of Elections, plus an expansion of the board from five to eight members, and thus eliminating any governor's-party advantage.

The Republican-led General Assembly passed SB4 in a special session just days before Governor Roy Cooper's inauguration. It was signed by former Governor Pat McCrory.

"As the state's chief executive, the governor must be able to appoint people within those agencies who share his views and priorities," attorney Jim Phillips, representing Governor Cooper, asserted to the seven justices of the NC Supreme Court.

Cooper's attorneys are asking the court to strike down those laws because they contradict the separation of powers.

"We ask the court to say that the Constitution means what it says," Phillips added.

Lawyers for Republicans shot back at the assertion, conceding that this was motivated by partisan politics, but that doesn't violate the state constitution; the governor's job is to execute the laws passed by the legislature whether he likes the laws or not.

"The governor here is taking the extraordinary step of trying to bypass that clear constitutional provision."

A separate lawsuit is pending over another law passed in the special session, House Bill 17, which sharply reduced the number of appointees to state government Governor Cooper could make and required all of Cooper's top agency heads to be approved by the Senate, among other executive powers.

Despite the legal fight, most of Gov. Cooper's cabinet already on job and passed senate confirmation hearings.

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politicsroy coopergeneral assemblystate politicswtvdocnorth carolina newsRaleigh
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