NC high court to decide if lawmakers OK governor’s top aides
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s highest court will decide whether legislators can reject a governor’s choices for important jobs like collecting taxes or registering automobiles, or if lawmakers claiming that oversight limit which top aides carry out the governor’s plans.
The state Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday into whether a law passed by the Republican-led legislature in 2016 unconstitutionally interfered with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s ability to choose the deputies helping him do his job ensuring that laws are carried out. The law was passed within weeks of Cooper beating former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.
While the General Assembly does have the power to shape the departments and duties of state agencies Cooper oversees, they can’t interfere with how the governor carries out his duties, Cooper’s lawyers said.
Allowing the law to stand would allow lawmakers or even just legislative leaders to argue that if they “wanted to appoint the Governor’s cabinet secretaries, nothing in the Constitution would prevent that action,” Cooper’s attorneys said in a court filing.
Lower courts have twice determined North Carolina lawmakers have the power to give themselves the last word on confirming a governor’s choices to run agencies that manage veteran’s affairs, business recruiting, environmental quality, health programs and prisons.
The state Senate unanimously confirmed all eight of Cooper’s cabinet secretaries last year. There is no evidence that any of Cooper’s selections would have been different if senators had not given themselves the new approval authority. Cooper’s spokesmen did not respond Monday when asked whether the governor’s choices were altered by the process.
Lawyers defending the law said it doesn’t violate separation of powers principles because legislators, who created the agencies, have a right to advise and consent to the governor’s proposed appointees. The governor takes it from there, legislative lawyers said.
“While the Legislature has some participation in approving Plaintiff’s appointments, the selection, supervision, and removal of the appointees are all solely privileges of the Governor,” lawyers said in a court filing. The law, therefore, is “not an overreach into an exclusive executive power because appointment of statutory officers under our Constitution is not wholly executive.”