Showdown Between NC Gov, Legislature

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Lawyers for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's legislative leaders face off in court Tuesday over whether a series of new laws diminishing the governor's powers are constitutional.

A panel of three trial judges will determine the outcome, though its decision can be appealed in a process that could last months.

The challenged laws require Cooper's picks to run 10 state agencies be approved by the GOP-led Senate, strip the governor's control over running elections, slash his hiring options and give civil service protections to hundreds of political appointees of former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

GOP lawmakers adopted the provisions reducing Cooper's powers during a surprise special legislative session two weeks before the Democrat took office Jan. 1.

The key argument raised by attorneys for state House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger is that North Carolina's legislature is dominant in a state government where the three branches of government are separate, but not equal.

Cooper's attorneys contend that even if North Carolina's governor is weak compared with most state executives across the country, the new laws encroach on the governor's powers and upset the balance of powers that have developed.

The determination of Republican lawmakers to diminish Cooper's authority continued last week.

The state House passed along party lines two bills eliminating Cooper's ability to choose board members at more than a dozen community colleges. General Assembly leaders would make those appointments instead. A proposed bill would strip Cooper of the ability to fill vacancies on the state District Court, where most criminal and civil cases get heard, and give selections to legislative leaders.

(KA)