Opinion

Winners and losers

This editorial appeared in the News & Record

Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative leaders should accept the partial victories and defeats handed down by a three-judge panel last week and get on with conducting the people's business.

In December, days after then-Gov. Pat McCrory conceded election defeat to Cooper, the legislature convened a series of special sessions. One produced bills that reduced the governor's power. McCrory signed them just before leaving office.

McCrory and the majority of legislators are Republicans. Cooper is a Democrat. The Republicans wanted to curtail as much of Cooper's authority as they could.

These bills canceled the governor's ability to appoint a majority of state and county election board members; slashed the number of people he could place in state government jobs; and subjected his Cabinet heads to Senate confirmation. Cooper challenged those actions in court.

The judges sided with Cooper on the election board and employees questions but with legislators on confirmation.

The court found the Senate does have this constitutional power, although it had not exercised it for many years. If the Senate uses it fairly, without raising purely political objections to nominees, the governor will have no complaint. Unfortunately, the timing -- just as a Democrat was taking office -- made the political intent clear. And provoking political battles, even when winning them, doesn't serve the people's interests.

The legislature pushed too far into executive authority in the other areas, the court ruled. Legislators cut the number of positions the governor could fill throughout executive agencies from 1,500 to just 425. This left in place hundreds of political loyalists appointed by McCrory. Now Cooper can replace them with his own loyalists.

The election board question is more complex. Historically, the governor has been entitled to place people of his own political party in a majority of seats on the state Board of Elections and the boards in all 100 counties.

Putting one party in control of all those boards is calculated to create political advantage. It doesn't inspire confidence that these boards will administer elections fairly. In reality, they usually conduct their business with impartiality, but they are structured to give a political edge to one party over the other. And they provide no representation at all for unaffiliated voters. Ideally, the five-member state board would have two Republicans, two Democrats and one unaffiliated member. Three-member county boards would have one from each group.

For now, all parties should accept the court's decision, file no more appeals, and get busy with more important work.

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