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Cooper files lawsuit, motions to stop bill merging Elections Board, Ethics Commission

Two days after the General Assembly overrode his veto, Gov. Roy Cooper filed a lawsuit and requests to halt a bill that would merge the state Board of Elections and state Ethics Commission.

The lawsuit comes a little over a month after a three-judge panel already ruled the merge was unconstitutional. Instead of appealing the decision, Republican lawmakers rewrote the law (now Senate Bill 68), tweaked some language and passed it again.

“Undeterred by the judicial check on its unconstitutional actions, on April 25, 2017, the General Assembly enacted Session Law 2017-6, which repeals the acts enjoined in Cooper v. Berger and Moore, including the portions of Senate Bill 4 relating to the State Board of Elections, and enacts new provisions that again destroy the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission and replace them with an unconstitutionally structured and staffed new Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (“New State Board”).

This General Assembly’s continued, direct attacks on executive authority unconstitutionally infringe on the Governor’s executive powers in violation of separation of powers, and improperly delegate legislative power without adequate guiding standards.”

You can read the 29-page lawsuit and motions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction here.

To disempower the Governor’s Office would fail to respect the will of the electorate in selecting him as the state’s chief executive, the lawsuit states. The Constitutional allocation between the Governor’s Office and the legislature “must be protected, no matter the political affiliation of the Governor or the majority of the legislature.”

Cooper cites the Separation of Powers clause in the Constitution as grounds for the lawsuit, as well as the non-delegation doctrine.

He makes a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, which would halt the Ethics Commission and Elections Board merge until the lawsuit is resolved.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, defendants in the lawsuit, have not yet publicly commented on the new litigation.

House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson warned Republican lawmakers when they overrode the veto Monday that it would just lead to more litigation.

The litigation is costing taxpayers. The Insider news service reported earlier this week that lawmakers and Cooper’s office have paid or been billed more than $760,000 in attorneys’ fees since January related to lawsuits over Republicans’ power grabs.

The report states that General Assembly records show $405,000 in expenses from a law firm representing Berger and Moore, and information from Cooper shows $362,000 in expenses from a firm representing him.

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Cooper files lawsuit, motions to stop bill merging Elections Board, Ethics Commission