A three-judge panel ruled this afternoon that state lawmakers exceeded their authority when enacting laws empowering themselves to make appointments to the state coal ash cleanup and fracking commissions.
The ruling, coming from a panel composed of two Republican judges and one Democrat — as noted below by the News & Observer’s Craig Jarvis — is a victory for Gov. Pat McCrory, who filed suit alleging infringement upon his executive authority.
“This historic and unanimous ruling respects and restores the separation of powers,” the governor said in a statement. “I’m proud to stand up for our Constitution and the citizens of North Carolina. I’d like to thank former Governors Jim Martin and Jim Hunt for joining me in this effort to protect the principles of our state.”
In response to the governor’s claims, lawmakers argued that McCrory lacked standing to bring the lawsuit and that he had waived his right to bring the challenge when he failed to veto the laws and thereafter appointed some members to the coal ash commission.
The judges called the lawmakers’ arguments “borderline specious” and said that the governor’s objections were “indisputably clear.”
“The Legislature brushed the objections aside like a knife through hot butter,” they wrote.
“There was no requirement or need to veto the legislation when the Legislature held a veto proof majority in both houses. The law does not require a party to do a vain act.”
Referring to the lawmakers’ actions, the panel held:
[T]he statutes creating these commissions, enacted by the Legislature, provide for legislative appointment of some of the members, thereby constituting an impermissible commingling of the legislative power and executive power and an impermissible encroachment by the legislative branch of government on the executive branch of government in violation of Section 6 of Article I of the North Carolina Constitution that provides: “The legislative, executive and supreme judicial powers of the State government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other.”