Raleigh, N.C. — Even as the legal battle over the new Senate confirmation process got underway in Wake County Superior Court Tuesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved unexpectedly to issue a subpoena for another gubernatorial cabinet appointee – Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks.
The committee approved the subpoena 14-5, voting on party lines. Hooks is being commanded to appear before the committee on March 15 at 2 p.m.
Gov. Roy Cooper's administration has requested that nominees be officially subpoenaed by the Senate for legal reasons while the court case continues.
Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, has argued for weeks that Senate leaders should wait until the constitutional question is settled, and he maintained that the process cannot legally begin until the governor formally submits his appointees' names for consideration. The deadline for that submission, according to McKissick and the Cooper administration, is May 15.
"The process is premature," McKissick argued, noting that a hearing in the case was underway. "None of us knows what the outcome will be, but we should wait and be respectful of the court and their decision.
"This matter's not even on the printed agenda that's before us. It did not appear on the notice that went to members before the meeting today," McKissick continued. "It's irregular, it's improper, and I wish we were not continuing to go down this path."
"What is irregular is not having the common sense to ask them some questions, which is clearly outlined in the constitution," Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, shot back. "There's nothing strange about this. They do it in Washington, D.C., on a regular orderly basis."
Tillman reiterated the argument by Senate Republican leaders that an appointee who is serving and being paid as a cabinet secretary has been submitted on a de facto basis and therefore is subject to the confirmation requirement legislators enacted in December.
"To say this is irregular, or maybe you say it's not in the constitution," Tillman said, "is a bunch of B.S."
"I say we get on with it," argued Sen. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg. "The last time we issued a subpoena, the outcome was very good."
Hooks will be the second Cooper cabinet appointee to undergo the confirmation process. The first, Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs Larry Hall, was confirmed by a 47-0 vote Monday night.