By L. A. Williams
Christian Action League
August 29, 2013
RALEIGH — What happens if an organization files a lawsuit challenging a state statute or constitutional provision and the state’s Attorney General (AG) refuses to defend the law of the land? Thanks to Senate Bill 473, Health Cost Transparency and Speaker and PPT Standing, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate could intervene to act as a defendant in the case. The new law was signed Aug. 23 by Gov. Pat McCrory, who urged that it be used only when “absolutely necessary.”
“There should be mutual understanding and cooperation among the General Assembly, the Attorney General and the Governor,” he said.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, agreed that cooperation is best, but said the law is necessary to ensure that important constitutional provisions like the Marriage Protection Amendment could still be defended if the Attorney General’s office failed to properly step up to the plate.
“This is the very thing that happened in California. The voters passed a law protecting marriage, but when it was challenged the attorney general wouldn’t defend it,” said Dr. Creech. “Lawmakers elected by the people should have the power to defend laws passed either directly by the populace or indirectly in the Legislature. Of course the AG’s office is the first line of defense, but if the AG announces that he won’t defend the law or he gives evidence that he won’t defend it vigorously, we need a way to ensure it will still be defended.”
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union, which was already suing the state over adoption laws, sought to expand its case to challenge the Marriage Protection Amendment, and Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office agreed to the expansion saying that dealing with both issues at once would be more efficient.
Cooper has been vocal in his attacks against the VIVA/Election Reform bill (Voter ID bill) as well as the pro-life Senate Bill 353 (abortion bill), both of which passed this year and will likely be challenged in court.
“So how does he defend a bill in court when a judge can just read back to him his statement that it was unconstitutional?” Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) asked reporters for the Carolina Journal in reference to the attorney general’s comments about S 353.
Cooper’s spokesperson Noelle Talley told the media the attorney general doesn’t have to agree personally with a law for his office to effectively defend it.
“That may be true, but seeing attorney generals in other states and even in Washington, D.C., fail to defend the law of the land makes this new law necessary,” said Dr. Creech. “We’re glad to see the Governor sign it.”
Foreign Laws Legislation (Sharia Law Bill) to Become Law without Governor’s Signature
He said he was equally glad to see House Bill 522, Foreign Laws/Protect Constitutional Rights Bill, become law, even without the Governor’s signature.
Aimed at keeping foreign law that violates the U.S. Constitution from being applied in North Carolina’s family courts, the bill had passed the House and Senate in late July, but did not receive a warm welcome by the governor, who said last week that he believed it was unnecessary. Even so, he agreed not to veto the bill.
Rep. Chris Whitmire (R-Henderson) said the bill not getting the governor’s blessing was a “downer,” but that its passage Monday was a “major Constitutional victory” nonetheless.
He commended Concerned Women for America (CWA), which has lobbied for such anti-Sharia laws across the nation, and other organizations that urged lawmakers to support the bill. The CWA issued a report thanking North Carolinians for their phone calls and e-mails to Gov. Pat McCrory on behalf of the law, the seventh such one to be passed in the nation.
Governor Calls for General Assembly to Return to Deal with Vetoed Bills Next Week
Because the Governor did veto two laws dealing with the drug testing of welfare recipients and immigration, he called for the Legislature to come back into session this coming Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Although Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) has not announced whether he will call for an override, both bills passed with more than the three-fifths needed to do so. The Governor is obligated to call the General Assembly back into session if he vetoes a bill so they will have the opportunity for another vote.