The Latest: Judges skeptical of cuts to NC governor's powers

AP News
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Posted: Mar 07, 2017 4:24 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on a court hearing North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's challenge of Republican efforts to curtail his powers (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

A panel of North Carolina judges appears skeptical that Republican legislators acted constitutionally by suddenly adopting a series of new laws undercutting the governor's authority now that a Democrat has the job.

The three-judge panel spent five hours on Tuesday listening to lawyers for Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's legislative leaders.

Judge Jesse Caldwell says courts sometimes need to pull back the curtain on the motivation behind laws. He and other judges peppered lawyers for GOP lawmakers with questions, asking why the laws were passed two weeks before Cooper took office.

The lawmakers' lawyer, attorney Noah Huffstetler, said in response that the clash is about powerful people maneuvering for political advantage, masquerading as a lawsuit over separation of government powers.

The laws give the GOP-led Senate authority over the governor's picks to lead state agencies, hire employees and other measures.

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12:50 p.m.

North Carolina lawmakers aren't waiting for a court decision on Gov. Roy Cooper's challenge of their moves to restrict his authority.

Senate Republicans issued another subpoena to another department head on Tuesday, moving forward with a process that the Democratic governor says violates the state constitution.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to compel Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks to appear March 15. GOP leaders subpoenaed military and veterans' affairs Secretary Larry Hall to appear before another committee last week after he didn't show up. The full Senate unanimously confirmed Hall Monday night.

Attorneys for both Cooper and legislative leaders were arguing in court over the laws Republicans passed just before Cooper took office that were designed to restrict his authority. Among them is a law giving the legislature the authority to approve or deny a governor's cabinet choices.

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12:30 p.m.

A North Carolina judicial panel is weighing whether it's constitutional that Republican lawmakers suddenly adopted a series of new laws cutting the new Democratic governor's powers.

The three-judge panel heard Tuesday from lawyers for Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's legislative leaders.

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

Arguing for the Republican lawmakers was attorney Noah Huffstetler, who called it a matter of politics and outside the realm of judges to decide. Huffstetler said the clash is about powerful people maneuvering for political advantage masquerading as a lawsuit over separation of government powers.

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4 a.m.

Lawyers for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and state legislative leaders are ready to face off in court over whether a series of new laws diminishing the governor's powers are constitutional.

A panel of three trial judges will start hearing the case Tuesday. Its decision will determine the outcome but 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.