N.C. Senate wants to grill Cooper’s diverse Cabinet picks

N.C. Senate wants to grill Cooper’s diverse Cabinet picks
February 09
04:50 2017



Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper has made good on his promise to appoint a diverse Cabinet to help him run state government for the next four years. But if a letter from the state Senate to one of Cooper’s most prominent Cabinet officers is accurate, Republican leaders seem bent on embarrassing the governor’s appointees long before they are sworn into office.

As previously reported, Gov. Cooper has appointed eight of ten Cabinet officers, with several agency heads being African-American:

* Machelle Sanders, Department of Administration

*Erik Hooks, Department of Public Safety

*Michael Regan, Department of Environmental Quality

*Larry Hall Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

Cooper also selected Col. Glenn McNeill of Reidsville as the new commander of the N.C. Highway Patrol. McNeill has served with the State Highway Patrol since 1994, starting as a trooper in Durham and later served with the Special Operations Section and as a Troop Commander. He most recently served as director of training for the Patrol since 2014.

Perhaps the most prominent of these is former state Rep. Larry Hall (D- Durham), who was appointed by Cooper to be secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Military and Veteran Affairs in January.

However, thanks to a new law passed in December by the Republican-led legislature to counter Cooper’s election, all Cabinet appointments by the Democratic governor must first be vetted by a state Senate committee during confirmation hearings, similar to the U.S. Senate. In effect, the state Senate can dump any of Cooper’s Cabinet appointments it chooses with negative recommendation, according to the law.

As promised, Cooper is fighting the measure in court, asking a three-judge panel Monday to stop the hearings, arguing that they are “unconstitutional.” But Republican legislative leaders counter that the state Constitution gives them the right to vet the governor’s Cabinet choices, though that “right” has not been instituted for several decades.

Dated Feb. 6, the hand-delivered letter to Acting Secretary Hall from the N.C. Senate notes the legislative and constitutional authority under which Hall was required to appear before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Insurance on Feb. 8 to answer questions.

Presumably the other seven Cabinet appointees received the same letter, though their confirmation hearings are scheduled before the Senate committee on different dates.

“While we do not expect the meeting to be adversarial, you will be asked questions relating to your experience, potential conflicts of interest and your willingness to follow the law,” the Senate letter continued. “While each member has discretion in selecting the questions he or she asks, we are providing to you a more detailed idea of what we expect will be potential areas of discussion.”

Then, among the attached “Potential Areas of Inquiry for Gubernatorial Nominees,” beyond qualifications, Hall was asked about potential conflicts of interest, including “Employment Relationships, Outside Commitments During Service,” “Impact of Prior Employment/Activities,” “Political Contributions” and “Legal Actions.”

Democrats in the state legislature are not pleased with what they see as an unnecessary exercise in attempting to exert some control over the executive branch.

“Confirmation of the governor’s appointments is at best retaliatory action as an act of pure deviance, just because one has the authority to do so,” says state Rep. Evelyn Terry (D-District 71 – Forsyth). “Cabinet level positions are not “sand lot games.” It involves real people with real needs and ought not be taken lightly.”

State Sen. Paul Lowe (D- Forsyth) was also out-raged.

“It is a shame that an appointee of Mr. Larry Hall’s stature who has been a champion of veterans and issues that affect them has to go through this confirmation process,” Sen. Lowe said. “It appears that the majority party is play-ing politics.  I would question why this process is just beginning with a Democratic governor.”

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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