Editorial: Legislators and Cooper need to get out of court; focus on people's business

Posted March 22

Superior Court Judges Todd Burke, left, Jesse Caldwell and Jeffrey Foster.

A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, March 22, 2017; Editorial # 8138
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

Last week a three-judge Superior Court panel of two Democrats and a Republican, unanimously ruled that merging the state elections and ethics boards and sharply curtailing the governor’s authority over the new agency amounted to an unconstitutional power grab.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone given that the law was ill conceived, poorly handled and hastily passed during a brief special legislative session last December.

The bill also included a dramatic cut in the number of Gov. Roy Cooper’s at-will, policy making managerial positions that the judges, on a two (Democrats)-to-one (Republican) split, said was unconstitutional.

In the same bill, two judges -- a Democrat and Republican -- agreed that a section requiring state Senate confirmation of Cooper’s cabinet appointees met constitutional muster.

The legislature’s record in high-profile cases before various state and federal courts is atrocious, and now stands at 2 and 1/3 laws upheld to 12-and-2/3 denied. With a record like that, if the legislature’s leadership were coaching an NCAA basketball team, the athletic director would be looking to make some changes.

While no personnel changes appear forthcoming in the General Assembly until the next election, legislators need to sharply curtail their court time.

Legislators need to accept the court’s ruling and move on. While Cooper’s already filed an appeal, he should reconsider and drop it.  Cooper and the legislators should work together, develop an orderly cabinet confirmation process and get on with it.

It is not worth the time, distraction or tax dollars to pay lawyers, for either Cooper or the legislature to continue this case.

Consider this:

  • The governor’s office strongly prevailed on the biggest issue in the case, merging the state Board of Elections with the state Ethics Commission and stripping the governor’s appointment authority over the elections board.
  • The court also sided with the governor on the number of at-will policy-making and managerial positions that the legislature sought to dramatically reduce, from 1,500 to 425. “The General Assembly has effectively appointed hundreds of employees in the heart of the executive branch (of government).”

Let this one go. Bigger priorities must command legislators’ attention.  There are fewer than 20 legislative working days remaining until the deadline for key legislation to pass from one house to the other.

Our teachers and school administrators are still among the worst paid in the nation, North Carolina’s image continues to fall while House Bill 2 remains on the books and 500,000 people in the state still don’t have health insurance. These are just a few of the items screaming for legislators’ attention.

The General Assembly needs to spend more time on the legislative floor and less in the halls of justice. All North Carolinians will be better off for it.

1 Comment

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  • Jim Frazier Mar 22, 7:35 a.m.
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    As I expected, Cooper will do everything except fulfill his campaign promises. I fully expect a tax increase down the road as well as other liberal actions.