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NC Senate confirmations for Cooper appointments expected to take 6 weeks

The Senate confirmation process for eight of Gov. Roy Cooper’s cabinet appointees is expected to take about six weeks, though that schedule is malleable and legislators will move quicker if they can.

“I should certainly hope that we can speed it up,” said Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Bladen, Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender), who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Nominations. “If it can be expedited, we certainly will.”

The committee met for the first time Tuesday and unveiled the confirmation process, which Rabon said is not unlike the federal Senate confirmation process. He said legislators “looked around for guidelines.”

Each candidate will meet with the government committee that best matches the agency they are set to lead before a final review by the Nominations Committee and then a vote to be accepted or rejected by the full Senate.

Candidates must prove they are capable and qualified for the job, they don’t have conflicts of interest and they will obey the law.

Rabon said he doesn’t expect any problems and hopes all of Cooper’s picks will be confirmed.

“I have no concerns with any of them, many of them I haven’t met and I’m certainly not going to prejudge anyone,” he said.

The North Carolina Constitution allows state senators to confirm governors’ key appointees, though this is the first time they’ve chosen to use that power. They erected a new confirmation requirement during a controversial special session in December. Cooper is challenging it in court.

When asked if the confirmation hearings should be viewed as another attempt by the General Assembly to undercut Cooper, Rabon said “absolutely not.” He also said if he had his way, legislators would have had this process a long time ago.

“I think we’re just following our Constitutional duty and it’s time that we did so,” he said. “And I think that [Cooper] will find it a good process and one that he might appreciate, and the individuals might appreciate [it] as well.”

Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr. (D-Durham, Granville), who is on the Nominations Committee, said the rules laid out Tuesday were pretty straight forward and he considered the criteria reasonable.

He was disappointed, however, that the Nominations Committee had not run its tentative schedule by Cooper’s office.

McKissick added that the most important issue overall was whether, Constitutionally, the confirmation process was required at all – an issue the courts will decide. He said either way, he didn’t expect there to be any problems with Cooper’s picks.

A spokesman for Cooper told WRAL that the governor urges legislators to wait for the courts to decide the constitutionality of the hearings before proceeding.

The schedule for hearings brought up at the Tuesday meeting is as follows:

Feb. 8: Larry Hall, secretary of the state Department of Veterans and Military Affairs

Feb. 14: Machelle Sanders, secretary of the Department of Administration

Feb. 16: Susi Hamilton, secretary of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Feb. 21: Eric Hooks, secretary of the state Department of Public Safety

Feb. 23: Tony Copeland, secretary of the state Department of Commerce

March 1: Jim Trogdon, secretary of the state Department of Transportation

March 8: Michael Regan, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Quality

March 16: Mandy Cohen. secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services

Cooper has yet to make appointments for the departments of Revenue or Information Technology.

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