(The Center Square) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Monday that would have required legislative leaders to sign off on lawsuit settlements involving the General Assembly.
Senate Bill 360 targeted collusive settlements, also known as settle-and-sue cases, that challenge the state's laws or constitution. The legislation was filed in response to a legal settlement that changed election rules ahead of the November election.
According to law, when the state is named in a lawsuit, the governor represents the executive branch, and the General Assembly leadership represents the legislative branch. The House approved the measure, 58-47, on Sept. 15. It was approved by the Senate, 28-21, in April.
Cooper said Monday the bill is "unconstitutional and unwise" and would hinder the attorney general from doing his job.
Backers of the bill said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and the state election board's September 2020 settlement with the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans and seven voters was a collusive settlement.
The plaintiffs sued the state for changes in the voting process to protect older voters from the spread of COVID-19.
Republicans said the agreement was made in secret, without the knowledge of two of the defendants, Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland. They also argued the settlement was unconstitutional since it changed state law after previous failures to change similar rules. Republicans, including former President Donald Trump's campaign, challenged the settlement up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell and Democratic lawmakers argued the settlement changed election rules, not laws. Democrats also called the bill a legislative overreach since it aims to take the election board's decision-making power away.
Moore said Monday it is common sense the General Assembly should be involved in any settlement in which they are named.
"Senate Bill 360 would have mitigated the political games played by the attorney general in our state, and further strengthened the checks and balances in our state," Moore said in a statement.