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Governor challenging parts of budget in expanded, ongoing lawsuit against legislative leaders

Gov. Roy Cooper is challenging several more actions taken by the legislature in ongoing litigation.

He amended his complaint in Cooper v. Berger today to include three challenges to the budget that was passed by lawmakers in June. The challenges, according to the lawsuit, are examples of unconstitutional overreach to limit Cooper’s constitutional authority.

Below are the challenges added to the lawsuit with a brief summary of each from the Governor’s Office:

  • The General Assembly’s attempt to mandate the inclusion of funding for school vouchers in the Governor’s future budget proposals: “In Sec. 6.6 (b) of the budget, the General Assembly mandated that the Governor include funding for school vouchers in his proposed budget, totaling nearly a billion dollars over the next decade. Presenting a budget proposal is a constitutional duty of the Governor, and it violates the separation of powers to mandate the inclusion of items for the Governor to include.”
  • The General Assembly’s attempt to direct the disbursement of federal block grants: “In the budget, the General Assembly seeks to appropriate or direct the disbursement of funds from federal block grants for purposes contrary to the preferences of the Governor and executive agencies. The Governor’s proposed budget outlined specific uses for millions of dollars of block grant funding that the General Assembly’s budget altered. It is the executive branch’s constitutional duty to execute the law — in this case federal law — by ensuring the disbursement of federal block grant funds in accordance with federal requirements. Federal block grants are provided to the state pursuant to federal law and congressional policy and the General Assembly has no authority to appropriate these funds.”
  • The General Assembly’s attempt to intercede and direct the disbursement of funds received from a federal settlement with Volkswagen with respect to their “clean diesel” vehicles: “Following a federal lawsuit over their ‘Clean Diesel’ vehicles, Volkswagen agreed to a settlement resulting in the creation of a $2.7 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from certain Volkswagen and Audi vehicles. Under the terms of the Trust Agreement, North Carolina will receive $87 million towards that purpose. Under the terms of the settlement, the Governor has the authority to select the state agency that will be the beneficiary of the settlement funds and the executive branch will create a plan for administering the funds. In Sec. 13.2 (b) of the budget, the General Assembly attempts to intercede and dictate how the state will allocate the settlement funds. Because the terms of the settlement direct the trust be used for a specific purpose, the funds are custodial in nature and it is the Governor’s duty to administer them in accordance with the mandates of the federal court and trustee. Therefore, the General Assembly’s action is an impermissible attempt to prevent the Governor from carrying out his official duties.”

You can read the full amended complaint here.

Legislative leaders have not yet publicly responded to the new challenges.

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