North Carolina's new Democratic governor and majority Republican legislature are charging at each other in a constitutional game of chicken over their powers, a confrontation that could shape the recent conservative direction of state policies and spending.
The confrontation continues Tuesday, when the two branches of state government appear for a court hearing before the third. A panel of three trial judges will gather in Raleigh to hear lawyers for Gov. Roy Cooper dispute attorneys for the state House and Senate leaders over whether new laws are constitutional.
"This is a fight that involves really the three branches of government. It's one of a series of possible contests that we can see as the governor serves his term in office about who is going to make what decisions," High Point University political scientist Martin Kifer said. "It also has to do with the pace of policymaking. This isn't speeding things up."
GOP lawmakers passed several provisions that reduced the incoming governor's powers during a surprise special legislative session two weeks before Cooper took office Jan. 1. The laws:
— require Cooper's choices to run 10 state agencies to be approved by the GOP-led Senate.
— strip Cooper's control over administering elections and gives Republicans control over state and local elections boards during even-numbered years when elections for major statewide and national office are held.
— slash Cooper's patronage hiring discretion and gives civil service protections to hundreds of political appointees hired by former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who narrowly lost to Cooper last fall.
Cooper might not like the increasing number of limits Republicans impose, but he'd better get used to it, attorneys for legislative leaders said in a court filing. The state's constitution and legal precedents have created one of the country's weakest governors, and makes the General Assembly the dominant branch, attorneys for state House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger wrote.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday temporarily blocked a congressional subpoena that seeks information on how the classified advertising website Backpage.com screens ads for possible sex trafficking.
The order came hours after Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer asked the high court to intervene, saying the case threatens the First Amendment rights of online publishers.
A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Friday that the website must respond to the subpoena within 10 days. Roberts said Backpage does not have to comply with the appeals court order until further action from the Supreme Court. He requested a response from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations by Friday.
The Senate panel has tried for nearly a year to force Backpage to produce certain documents as part of its investigation into human trafficking over the Internet.
After the website refused to comply, the Senate voted 96-0 in March to hold the website in contempt. The vote allowed the Senate to pursue the documents in federal court, marking the first time in more than two decades that the Senate has enforced a subpoena in court.
A federal district judge sided with the Senate last month, rejecting arguments that the subpoena was unconstitutional, overly broad and burdensome. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed.
Hillary Clinton said Monday that the future of the Supreme Court would hang in the balance of the 2016 election, warning that Republican front-runner Donald Trump would bring division to the court if he was allowed to shape its future.
Clinton said Trump would roll back the rights of individuals and further empower corporations, pointing to his past statements about building a wall along the Mexican border and barring all non-citizen Muslims from entering the United States.
"In a single term, the Supreme Court could demolish pillars of the progressive movement," Clinton said at the University of Wisconsin. She pointed to the possibility of a Trump presidency, asking, "What kind of justice will a President Trump appoint?"
Clinton opened a two-day campaign trip in Wisconsin ahead of the state's April 5 primary with a topic certain to unite Democrats whether they support her or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders: President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.
Republicans have said the late Justice Antonin Scalia should not be replaced until the next president picks a nominee. But Clinton argued it was reminiscent of GOP-led gridlock that stymied Obama's two terms.
"We chose a president. We chose him twice," Clinton said. "And now Republicans in the Senate are acting like our votes didn't count and President Obama is not still our nation's leader."
The American Civil Liberties Union said it plans to appeal a federal court ruling that upheld a technical college’s plan to force every incoming student to be tested for drugs.
Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU’s Missouri chapter, told the Jefferson City News Tribune that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given the organization until Jan. 4 to file a petition seeking a rehearing by either the same three-judge panel that issued the ruling earlier this month, or by all of the active 8th Circuit judges.
“We intend to request both,” Rothert said. “While rehearing is difficult to obtain, we are fortunate in this case to have a majority decision that is poorly crafted and departs from 8th Circuit and Supreme Court precedent.”
The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit in 2011 challenging a mandatory drug-testing policy Linn State Technical College’s Board of Regents approved in June of that year. The school since has changed its name to State Technical College of Missouri.
The lawsuit argued the policy violated the students’ Fourth Amendment right “to be secure . against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
When it started the program, the school said the testing policy was intended “to provide a safe, healthy and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at Linn State Technical College by detecting, preventing and deterring drug use and abuse among students.”
Under the policy, students had to pay a $50 fee for the drug test and could be blocked from attending if they refused to be tested.
U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey issued a ruling in September 2013 that limited the drug testing to five Linn State programs. But in its 2-1 vote earlier this month, the federal appeals court panel overturned her ruling as too narrow.