Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed N.C. Senate Bill 360 on Sept. 27, which aimed to strengthen checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches.
North Carolina Republican lawmakers introduced the bill to prohibit collusive settlements — also referred to as “settle-and-sue” cases — by the state's attorney general after absentee ballot laws were quickly changed in the lead-up to last year's elections.
The bill would have required the state's speaker of the house and president pro tempore of the state senate to cooperate with the attorney general to reach a settlement agreement when representatives of the General Assembly are named parties. In this case, the attorney general represents the executive branch, and the N.C. General Assembly represents the legislative branch.
“This bill is unconstitutional and unwise, and would prevent the Attorney General from doing his job to protect the people of North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper said in a statement.
Gov. Cooper served as the N.C. attorney general for 16 years before he was elected governor in 2016.
Nazneen Ahmed, press secretary for Attorney General Josh Stein, mirrored Cooper's statement.
"Our office believes that S.B. 360 was unwise and unconstitutional," Ahmed wrote in an email.
State Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, Union, said in a tweet that he believes election integrity is vital to American democracy and added the bill would have prevented partisan schemes from originating in the attorney general's office.
“Gov. Cooper just deepened distrust in the electoral process at a time when we should focus on improving it,” Newton said in a tweet.
N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said that it should be common sense that the General Assembly be involved in any settlement to which they are a party.
SB 360 was constructed following an extensive lawsuit in 2020 surrounding N.C. election rules after contention over mail-in ballots and voter fraud.
When the House passed the bill on Sept. 15, Moore said he believed the bill would go a long way to prevent the executive branch from becoming too dominant in the state.
“Our current attorney general has repeatedly excluded the General Assembly in settlement agreements, often choosing politics over his duty to defend our state constitution," Moore said in a statement.
After the bill was vetoed, he expressed his disappointment with the governor's office.
“Senate Bill 360 would have mitigated the political games played by the attorney general in our state and further strengthened the checks and balances in our state,” Moore said in a statement.
Moore added that the justice system should not be weaponized for political gain.
Jennings Dean, a first-year political science major at UNC, said he believes the bill would have furthered party division in the state.
“The way we are set with the political divide, it would result in a more partisan argument," Dean said. “With everything that has happened recently, a lot of election distrust has come from a party-line standpoint.”
Dean hopes to see a United States that overcomes party division.
“America itself has become very party divided rather than just necessarily right and wrong, and it’s become which party is going to come out on top, rather than what we can do for the country,” Dean said.
Dean emphasized the importance of checks and balances to prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful.
Cooper has vetoed more legislation than all past North Carolina governors combined. The veto of Senate Bill 360 brings Cooper’s total count to 11 vetoes this year and 64 vetoes since he assumed the role of governor in 2017.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated whether Attorney General Josh Stein responded to The Daily Tar Heel. Nazneen Ahmed, press secretary for Attorney General's office, provided an email statement as comment. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
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