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North Carolina's highest court is speeding up a final decision on whether Republican legislators could strip down the election oversight powers of the state's new Democratic governor.

The state Supreme Court said Wednesday it will take up Gov. Roy Cooper's lawsuit against state legislative leaders. The decision bypasses an intermediate appeals court and schedules a Supreme Court hearing on Aug. 28.

GOP lawmakers have sought to dilute Cooper's powers since he narrowly beat incumbent GOP Gov. Pat McCrory last year.

The contested law takes away Cooper's ability to appoint a majority of the state elections board and make every county's elections board a Democratic majority. The law would make a Republican head of the decision-making state board in presidential election years when most people vote and ballot disputes are hottest.

Idaho Supreme Court upholds grocery tax veto

•  Court News     updated  2017/07/20 23:04

The Idaho Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's contentious veto of legislation repealing the state's 6 percent sales tax on groceries.

The high court's decision comes after 30 state lawmakers filed a lawsuit claiming Otter took too long to veto the grocery tax repeal because he waited longer than 10 days as outlined in the Idaho Constitution.

Otter, along with other top elected officials, countered he was just following a 1978 high court ruling that said the veto deadline only kicks after it lands on his desk. The lawsuit originally singled out Secretary of State Lawerence Denney because he verified the governor's veto. Otter was later named in the challenge at the Republican governor's request because he argued that it was his veto that sparked the lawsuit.

However, the justices disagreed with Otter. Nestled inside their 21-page ruling, the court overruled the previous 1978 decision — a rare move inside the courts due to a preference to follow prior judicial precedent— because they argued the Constitution clearly states the deadline starts when the Legislature adjourns for the year. That part of the Tuesday's decision will only apply to future legislative sessions and not the grocery tax repeal case nor any other prior vetoes.

"The 1978 decision did not interpret the Constitution; it purported to rewrite an unambiguous phrase in order to obtain a desired result," the justices wrote.

Otter's spokesman did not respond to request for comment, though Otter is currently hospitalized recovering from back surgery and an infection. Denney's office also did not return request for comment.

For many Idahoans, Tuesday's ruling won't result in changes at the grocery checkout line. They will continue paying the tax and the state won't be at risk of losing the tax revenue, which helps pay for public schools and transportation projects. Instead, it's the Idaho Legislature that will face dramatic changes when handling bills at the end of each session.


The European Union is coming closer to imposing sanctions on Poland for the government's attempt to take control over the judiciary, a senior official warned Wednesday, but he said the bloc was still open to dialogue.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans spoke Wednesday in Brussels, shortly after Poland's lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to send a contentious draft law that would reorganize the nation's top Supreme Court for more work by a special parliamentary commission.

Timmermans said that the EU was closer to triggering Article 7 against Poland because its recent steps toward the judiciary "greatly amplify the threat to the rule of law" and threaten putting the judiciary "under full political control of the government." But he said that dialogue between the EU and Poland should continue while the legislation is being worked on.

The EU's Article 7 allows the bloc to strip a nation of its voting rights. Article 7 was envisioned to ensure democratic standards in EU members. It requires unanimity among all other member states.

The vote in Poland's parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Law and Justice party, was preceded by a heated debate and street protests. It was the latest in a string of conflicts over the policies of the conservative party, which won power in a 2015 election. The government is also under strong criticism from other EU leaders.

Lawmakers voted 434-6 with one abstention for the commission for justice and human rights to review and issue its opinion on the draft law, which gives politicians, not lawyers, the power over appointments to the Supreme Court and reorganizes its structure.

The head of the commission, Stanislaw Piotrowicz, said it wasn't clear when the commission would convene and when its opinion would be known. He said the number of amendments proposed by the opposition was aimed at obstructing its work.

In a heated debate Tuesday, the opposition proposed more than 1,000 amendments to the draft, which, it says, kills judicial independence and destroys the democratic principle of the separation of the judiciary from the executive power.


Attorneys for Kansas will try to convince an often skeptical state Supreme Court on Tuesday that the funding increase legislators approved for public schools this year is enough to provide a suitable education for kids statewide.

The high court is hearing arguments about a new law that phases in a $293 million increase in education funding over two years. The justices ruled in March that the $4 billion a year in aid the state then provided to its 286 school districts was inadequate, the latest in a string of decisions favoring four school districts that sued Kansas in 2010.

The state argues that the increase is sizable and that new dollars are targeted toward helping the under-performing students identified as a particular concern in the court's last decision.

But lawyers for the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, school districts argue that lawmakers fell at least $600 million short of adequately funding schools over two years. They also question whether the state can sustain the spending promised by the new law, even with an income tax increase enacted this year.

The court has ruled previously that the state constitution requires legislators to finance a suitable education for every child. In past hearings, justices have aggressively questioned attorneys on both sides but have not been shy about challenging the state's arguments.

The court is expected to rule quickly. Attorneys for the districts want the justices to declare that the new law isn't adequate and order lawmakers to fix it by Sept. 1 — only a few weeks after the start of the new school year.


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