GOP legislators want to give their leaders veto power over lawsuit settlements

Republican legislators want the state Attorney General to get approval from legislative leaders before finalizing some lawsuit settlements.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office said the bills are unconstitutional.

A Senate committee on Thursday approved Senate bill 360, Prohibit Collusive Settlements by the AG. The Attorney General would be required to get consent from both the House Speaker and the Senate leader when settling suits over state laws or constitutional provisions and where the Speaker and Senate leader have intervened.

North Carolina legislative leaders are Republicans, and Attorney General Josh Stein is a Democrat. Republicans in the legislature are angry about a settlement last year that resulted in a six-day extension for receipt of ballots in the November election.

Sen. Paul Newton, a Cabarrus Republican and a bill sponsor, said the laws should not be overturned “by means of a friendly suit.”

A collusive settlement is an agreement between supposed adversaries that reaches a result they both want, Newton said.

No one spoke in opposition, but there was at least one ‘no’ vote in the Senate committee. Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon said the bill would go to a vote of the full Senate on Monday.

House members filed a similar bill with an additional section about settlement costs. If settlements would cost the state money in future years, there would need to be money available in the existing budget to pay for it.

Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman in the Attorney General’s office, said in an email the office has reviewed the bills “and it is apparent that they are unconstitutional,” she said in an email.

“More importantly, our office has never participated in a “collusive settlement” and we are committed to our work to protect North Carolinians,” she wrote.

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