Legislative leaders said Wednesday that they would unfreeze pending key appointments that they had put on hold in the wake of a court ruling that left uncertain the extent of the General Assembly’s authority to name members to boards and commissions.
Legislation could be filed as soon as Thursday approving the governor’s nomination of a new State Bureau of Investigation director, according to Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Dunn. Other pending appointments could follow.
The House and Senate leadership also filed bills on Wednesday clarifying parts of the appointments law to conform with the recent court ruling as well as rulings going back to 1973. The bills drop a provision written into last year’s law establishing the Coal Ash Management Commission that required the governor to issue an executive order creating conflict of interest criteria for members of the commission.
Gov. Pat McCrory and two previous governors sued the General Assembly over that requirement and broader objections to who controls the appointments to the coal ash commission and other boards. A three-judge panel of Superior Court judges ruled in the governor’s favor.
The General Assembly appealed the ruling and announced that further appointments would come to a halt until the legal issues were resolved. The companion bills – Senate Bill 514 and House Bill 364 – note that the legislation creating the coal ash commission was modeled after two commissions that have long been in existence.
Lewis said the bills and moving ahead with appointments was an olive branch offered to show that legislators were trying to address issues cited in the court ruling, even while they don’t agree with it.
"This is just our good-faith effort to show that we are doing what the court asked us to do, first of all, and also to reassure the public that things that are vitally important, like the SBI director, be able to do his job," Lewis said. "That’s way above any disagreement the executive branch and legislative branch may have."
The new SBI director, Bernard Collier II, will serve an eight-year term upon appointment. This is the first time that a governor has named someone to run the SBI, which was moved from under the control of the attorney general last year.