A bill fast-tracked through the N.C. House on Thursday would require the state Attorney General’s Office to defend local acts passed by the General Assembly that are challenged in court. The move comes in the wake of the state’s redistricting of the Greensboro City Council and Wake County Board of Education, which are both being challenged in court. In both cases Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic challenger to Gov. Pat McCrory this November, chose not to defend redistricting laws passed by the legislature’s Republican majority. In the Greensboro council lawsuit, the Guilford County Board of Elections was left to defend the law and initially took no position on its constitutionality.
Republican legislators said that should never happen. “You should have somebody, and in this case, the attorney general, to defend the constitutionality of an enactment of the General Assembly,” said Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) during the bill’s late-night debate on the House floor.
The bill, a gutted-and-amended version of Senate Bill 667, asserts that the state “shall be a party whenever the validity or constitutionality of a local act of the General Assembly is the subject of an action in any court,” and, except in certain cases, “be represented by the Attorney General.”