NC Appeals Court Smacks Down Cooper’s Attempted Take Over of Federal Funds, Affirms NCGA Constitutional Power of the Purse

RALEIGH – Of the many petty lawsuits Governor Roy Cooper has lobbed at the Republican leaders of the General Assembly, nearly all of them amount to mere whining that the state legislature would exercise it’s constitutional authority against the political wishes of the petulant governor. Another confirmation of this trend came in a Tuesday decision in which a unanimous N.C. Court of Appeals rejected the Cooper administration’s attempts to wrest the power of the purse from its constitutionally assigned home in the legislature.

The case has to do with federal block grants. They grant funds are awarded to the State, and Cooper wanted to control them. (He’s got a habit of wanting to control big piles of money beyond his authority). When the legislature dared to ignore the governor’s recommendations of how to appropriate the funds in a particular manner, Cooper sued the General Assembly.

The legislature won a lower court ruling, and Tuesday’s unanimous decision at the Court of Appeals was a knock out blow for Cooper that could leave lasting effects.

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In short, the governor DOES NOT have the authority to appropriate state funds, no matter their source. The legislature is the only branch with such constitutional authority, and it is supreme. In this case that means federal block grants, but some acute observers are pointing out the ruling could effect other issues Cooper has that are a bit more scandalous.

From the Carolina Journal:

“[…] The N.C. Court of Appeals ruling can be linked to the ACP fund controversy, [president of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law Jeanette] Doran says.

“The Court of Appeals recognized that the governor cannot receive funds outside the state treasury,” Doran said. “That would seem to preclude the governor from accepting funds in any kind of special fund, unless the fund is treated as part of the state treasury and subject to appropriation by the General Assembly only.”

Senate Republicans issued a news release drawing a connection between the court ruling and the dispute over the ACP fund. 

“Governor Cooper has a lengthy track record of violating the Constitution to obtain taxpayer funds under his exclusive control,” the news release read. “Most recently, independent investigators concluded that ‘criminal violations may have occurred’ and that Governor Cooper ‘improperly used his authority’ in extracting funds from Duke Energy during the permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, slammed the governor. 

“Governor Cooper keeps trying to violate the Constitution to dole out taxpayer money to whomever he wants, and he keeps losing,” Brown said. “Today’s unanimous court ruling is another setback for the power-hungry governor.” […]”

These last few years have been replete with such political lawsuits, and far too many judicial diktats that did more to serve political interests than uphold the constitution. Tuesday’s ruling shows the limits of such tactics, even when the opinion is penned by a partisan picked by Beverly Perdue. Even a bling pig finds an acorn every once in a while.

With Roy Cooper in the governor’s mansion in the City of Oaks, there are LOTS more acorns to find if voters are to know what they’re really choosing between in 2020. The bottom of the pipeline scandal should be the first stop.

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