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Cooper ends suit challenging powerful NC rules panel

Roy Cooper
Roy Cooper
Flickr / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has quietly ended his litigation challenging the constitutionality of a powerful state commission that scrutinizes state agency rules, days before it was heading to court.

Cooper's private attorneys filed paperwork last Friday dismissing his August 2020 lawsuit against Republican legislative leaders. A hearing before three trial judges on the governor's motion to have the composition of the 10-member Rules Review Commission struck down as unconstitutional was scheduled for Nov. 9.

Cooper's lawsuit alleged that a governor “lacks no meaningful control over” the commission because all of its members are picked by legislative leaders — five each by the recommendation of the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore — even though it acts like an executive branch agency. The lawsuit didn’t focus on a specific action by the commission, which decides whether to approve or reject temporary or permanent agency rules to carry out the details of state law. Rather, it examined broadly the commission’s actions in recent years and asked for a broad ruling throwing out the law.

The lawsuit was dismissed “without prejudice,” which means Cooper could sue over the issue again — something that Cooper spokesperson Mary Scott Winstead could occur.

Cooper's office and the executive branch "will consider a future challenge to a specific decision by the Rules Review Commission that unlawfully blocks executive action, and the governor will continue to guard against legislative overreach that hurts the people of North Carolina,” Winstead said Tuesday.

Cooper has filed several lawsuits against Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger that challenge legislative action, including laws that took effect just before he took office in early 2017. The results have been mixed for the competing parties.

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