A group of plaintiffs led by advocacy group Common Cause N.C. has appealed to the N.C. Supreme Court to overturn laws passed by Republicans in the General Assembly in 2016 that limited the governor’s powers before Roy Cooper took office.
The bills, Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 17, were passed in December 2016 during a special legislative session the month before Cooper took office. The first altered the ability of the governor to make appointments, primarily to the state board of elections and the State Ethics Commission.
The second bill implemented an approval process that hadn't previously existed. It required that appointees for cabinet positions take part in confirmation hearings before the Senate, and no longer allowed the governor to appoint trustees to UNC system schools — which includes UNC.
By the end, the number of positions that worked directly for the governor was cut from 1,500 to 300, meaning those appointed to these positions by former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory would remain.
Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the conservative John Locke Foundation, said after Cooper beat McCrory, the Republicans who ran the General Assembly recognized it might be harder for them to pass legislation.
"It would be very hard to argue that the General Assembly wasn't trying to put handcuffs on Roy Cooper before he came into office," he said.
Common Cause N.C., an advocacy group based in North Carolina, is one of the lead plaintiffs on an April 2017 lawsuit to overturn this legislation. The lawsuit alleges that the special session in which these bills were passed was unconstitutional because it violated the right of the public to instruct representatives, which is a broad right given in Article 1 Section 12 of the N.C. Constitution.
The plaintiffs argued the insufficient notice of the General Assembly about the special session and what would be voted on violated the state constitution. Both an N.C. superior court and the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled against them.
Cooper managed to have some aspects of the legislation overturned in court, such as the changes to the state board of elections.