Politics & Government

Senators restore chief justice’s budget, saying cuts ‘had nothing to do with party’

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, left, congratulates Cheri Beasley after naming her as the next Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court during a press conference at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, left, congratulates Cheri Beasley after naming her as the next Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court during a press conference at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Senate Republicans reversed course on Friday morning, restoring three positions to N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s staff.

Previously, the Senate’s budget proposal had cut her staff in half.

During debate on Thursday, a proposal to restore the funding for the positions failed 27-20. But as lawmakers returned Friday to take a final vote on the budget, Sen. Danny Britt, a Robeson County Republican, introduced a similar amendment to restore the positions.

Beasley is the first African American female chief justice and a Democrat. She was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to fill the top seat on the bench after former Chief Justice Mark Martin, a Republican, left in June to be the dean at Regent University.

Democratic lawmakers had decried the cuts to Beasley’s staff.

“I think it’s a dastardly thing,” Rep. Paul Lowe of Winston-Salem said during debate on Thursday. “We’ve got our first African American female chief justice. And we haven’t taken resources away from others that served this position and served this state. To take them away now, it just seems morally wrong.”

Britt said overnight lawmakers had conversations with court officials that cleared up some confusion on the staffing. When Senate budget writers were putting together the budget, the three positions that were eliminated were vacant, Britt said. Since then, however, the positions had been filled.

“This had nothing to do with party,” Britt said.

Britt’s amendment passed the chamber unanimously.

Staff writer Will Doran contributed to this report.
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