A three-judge Superior Court judge panel handed Gov. Roy Cooper a victory over the General Assembly in a continuing battle over appointments to state boards and commissions.
The ruling, published late Friday, Aug. 31, said the legislature violated separation of powers by claiming the right to pick the majority of the members of five state boards: the Clean Water Management Trust Fund Board of Trustees; the Child Care Commission; the State Building Commission; the N.C. Parks and Recreation Authority; and the Rural Infrastructure Authority.
The court — comprising Superior Court Judges Henry Hight, Jay Hockenbury, and Nathaniel Poovey — said the governor won the separation-of-powers challenge by meeting a three-part test: The legislature appointed a majority of the members of the board; the governor had limited power to remove board members; and the board had the final say on executing the laws in the areas it regulates.
In this instance, the court agreed with the governor, who argued he had too little control over the operation of the boards.
Attorneys for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, asked the court to delay its ruling until after the Nov. 6 election. Attorneys argued the ruling could influence voters’ opinion of a constitutional amendment changing the makeup and the appointment process for the state board of elections.
The court denied the request, saying it had no way of knowing how the election might turn out.
The opinion is an extension of the 2016 McCrory v. Berger and Cooper v. Berger opinions, which rejected the legislature’s ability to appoint the majority of members to a coal ash commission and an earlier version of the elections board, respectively.
At press time, the legislative leaders had not indicated if they would appeal.