The state legislature chalked up a win over Gov. Roy Cooper this week in the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The battles between the Republican-led North Carolina legislature and Democratic Gov. Cooper have been epic.
The two sides reached a stalemate in 2019 over the budget. Cooper vetoed the budget passed with bipartisan support by the legislature and no agreement was ever reached.
In this case Cooper sued the legislature over who had the authority to spend certain federal block grant funds. The state Supreme Court voted 6-1 in favor of the legislature in deciding the case Cooper v. Berger. (The president pro tem of the state Senate is Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).)
It should be noted that the current North Carolina Supreme Court is made up of six Democrats and one Republican. In this case five Democrats sided with the Republican legislature and against the Democratic governor.
The case is only one of several lawsuits brought by Cooper against the legislature asserting the governor’s power over state appropriations and policymaking.
The court decision noted, “The power of the purse is the exclusive prerogative of the General Assembly, with the origin of the appropriations clause dating back to the time that the original state constitution was ratified in 1776.”
It also stated, “After a careful review of the relevant legal authorities, we have been unable to find any provision of the North Carolina State Constitution that creates a category of money that might possibly include the federal block grant monies that lies outside the State treasury or the General Assembly’s appropriation authority.”
State Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke), who co-chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a press release said, “It’s unfortunate that Attorney General Stein valued expansion of executive power over the rule of law. Most first-year law students could look at the plain text of the Constitution and previous rulings from the Supreme Court and conclude that the Attorney General’s preferred outcome would be a grave violation of basic legal principles. The law, not politics should come first in our state’s top law enforcement office.”
It appears the judicial branch overwhelming agrees with Daniel. Cooper lost in Superior Court and the three judge Court of Appeals panel ruled unanimously against Cooper, before it was appealed to the NC Supreme Court.
North Carolina House Speaker Tim More in a press release stated, “This decision represents a win for separation of powers and the constitutional appropriations process in North Carolina, as well as a defeat for executive branch efforts to govern around the legislature through litigation.”