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N.C. Court Blocks Attempt By State Lawmakers To Limit Incoming Governor's Power

Demonstrators at the state Legislature building in Raleigh, N.C., on Dec. 15, 2016, during a special session to pass laws limiting the power of the state's new governor, Roy Cooper.
Demonstrators at the state Legislature building in Raleigh, N.C., on Dec. 15, 2016, during a special session to pass laws limiting the power of the state's new governor, Roy Cooper.

A three-judge panel in North Carolina has issued a temporary restraining order blocking a law that strips the state's new governor of some powers.

The law was signed by outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and requires state Senate approval for Cabinet nominees of the new Democratic administration, something that was not required for McCrory's own nominees.

The Republican-controlled state Legislature passed the measure after McCrory lost November's election to Democrat Roy Cooper. Democrats called it a "power grab."

Republicans still hold large majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

On Wednesday, the court issued a temporary restraining order until a hearing on Friday, effectively blocking Senate confirmation hearings until the end of the week.

Republican leaders called the ruling a blatant overstep, adding that what they called the judges' decision to legislate from the bench will have profound consequences. In a statement, the governor said the court is absolutely correct and should not be intimidated by threats from legislative leaders.

Prior to the ruling, North Carolina's North State Journal reported on the arguments presented for and against the provision, writing:

"Cooper attorneys argued that the confirmation process equated to essential veto powers of the governor's cabinet choices, while lawyers for [the Legislature argued] that the authority to provide advice and consent is specifically delegated in the state constitution and does not interfere with the governor's ability to nominate, supervise, or control his appointments."

The hearing on Friday will decide whether the restraining order will remain in place until a full trial, which is currently scheduled for March 7.

As The Two-Way has reported, the law under consideration is one of two laws limiting the governor's power passed after the election.

The other, which was temporarily blocked by a different court in December and remains under consideration, removes the State Board of Elections from the governor's control by reducing the number of members on the board from five — three of whom could be from the governor's party — to four members, evenly split between the parties.

The law also increases the power of the state's appellate court and requires the party affiliations of judicial candidates to be printed on ballots.

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Jeff Tiberii first started posing questions to strangers after dinner at La Cantina Italiana, in Massachusetts, when he was two-years-old. Jeff grew up in Wayland, Ma., an avid fan of the Boston Celtics, and took summer vacations to Acadia National Park (ME) with his family. He graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and moved to North Carolina in 2006. His experience with NPR member stations WAER (Syracuse), WFDD (Winston-Salem) and now WUNC, dates back 15 years.
Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.