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CJ reports: Why hasn’t governor sued legislature over Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund?

Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports:

If Gov. Roy Cooper felt so strongly he had legal authority to create the unusual $57.8 million Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation fund, then why didn’t he sue to prevent the General Assembly from commandeering the money?

“That’s a good question. I don’t know,” said Pat Ryan, spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. “Maybe [the governor and his staff] didn’t think they had a strong enough case.”

Cooper, a Democrat, isn’t timid about taking the Republican-led General Assembly to court when he thinks the legislative branch encroaches on his executive powers.

He’s sued several times over a series of changes to the state elections board. Other lawsuits involved legislation limiting his appointment powers, Senate confirmation of his appointees, funding for the Opportunity Scholarship Program, reorganization of the N.C. Industrial Commission, limiting the number of N.C. Court of Appeals members, and seeking to strike constitutional amendments from the 2018 election ballot.

Cooper’s eagerness to sue over myriad separation of powers claims makes his passive stance on the pipeline stand out. After all, the governor argued the fund was needed to create jobs and address environmental issues important to his political base and the state.

Carolina Journal asked the governor why he stayed on the legal sidelines over the pipeline fund. His office did not answer that or other questions, including whether he still thinks he had authority to create the discretionary fund. Instead, his office sent a summary dated Dec. 20explaining how the discretionary fund evolved.

Likewise, Cooper didn’t respond to a January 2018 CJ question about the constitutional status of his fund. But documents the Governor’s Office released at the end of December to fulfill a public records request the General Assembly made months earlier included emails showing the CJ query was discussed.

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