Court of Appeals sides with lawmakers in Cooper litigation over block grant funding

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and the Republican-led legislature have been battling over power since he took office in 2017.

A three-judge appellate panel sided with lawmakers in litigation over whether federal block grant funds are subject to appropriation by the General Assembly or the Governor only.

Cooper v. Berger dealt with three federal block grants in particular that Gov. Roy Cooper argued he was responsible for spending — a substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant, a maternal and child health block grant and a community development block grant. Federal funds for those grants total more than $107 million per fiscal year, according to the state budget.

The Governor submitted his own budget proposing how the funds should be allocated, among other things, but the General Assembly ultimately disagreed with his suggestions and passed a budget with different allocation amounts to the grants.

The three-judge appellate panel released its unanimous decision in the case Tuesday. It was written by Judge Lucy Inman with Judges John Tyson and Donna Stroud concurring.

“The North Carolina Constitution plainly provides that ‘[n]o money shall be drawn from the State treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law,” the court document states. “The federal laws governing the Block Grants identify the State as the beneficiary of the funds, and they do not prohibit their appropriation by our General Assembly — the branch that wields exclusive constitutional authority
over the State’s purse.”

Cooper and the legislature have been involved in separation of powers litigation since the Governor took office in January of 2017. The Republican-led legislature worked to eliminate a number of gubernatorial powers when Cooper, a Democrat, won the election.

Read the full Court of Appeals decision here.

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