The dispute stems from three panels set up by bills passed into law in recent years. The laws authorized creation of panels to oversee issues related to coal ash, mining, and oil and gas (fracking). The bills were all signed into law by the Governor, and provided that the panels would have their membership determined in part by allowing appointments from the legislature. Governor McCrory, joined by former governors, filed suit contending that the panels abrogated powers that are reserved under our state Constitution for the executive branch. Essentially, the suit contended that the legislature was infringing on the powers of the executive branch.
Historically, the North Carolina governor’s office has been one of the weakest executive positions in the nation. Until 1971, NC governors could not seek reelection, being limited to one term. North Carolina was also the last state in the nation to grant its governor the power of the veto, with that change being enacted in a referendum (not by the legislature) in 1996.
In May, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Governor, finding that the laws were unconstitutional infringements of the legislature into powers that were executive in nature. Now, the legislature has appealed to the NC Supreme Court. Click here for the abc11.com article.
The suit is a fascinating one. On the national level, many conservatives contend that President Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers with actions regarding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by allowing multiple waivers and extensions of time for insurance companies and employers to comply with the law’s decisions. Similarly, the President has allowed waivers to states regarding education requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, and he has announced Executive Orders regarding immigration enforcement that would allow many undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. More recently, he has pushed environmental regulations that have been challenged in the courts.
However, in North Carolina, the balance is decisively the other way. The Governor has seen many of his vetos overridden by the legislature, including bills regarding gay marriage. This is all the more fascinating because the Governor and the legislature’s leadership are both Republicans. The state Supreme Court is itself dominated by Republican judges, but in this dispute, it is hard to read where they will come down.