Senate leader Phil Berger has sent a letter to North Carolina municipal officials warning them about using the courts to challenge the constitutionality of the new restrictions on annexation passed by the legislature this year.
Berger warns local officials if they persist in filing suits, the legislature could consider a number of bills, including those that would roll back previously passed annexations, when it returns in May.
“If necessary, these matters will be heard by the legislature to ensure North Carolina taxpayer money is not wasted on frivolous and abusive legal maneuvers,” Berger wrote in a letter dated Dec. 21 to Ellis Hankins, executive director of the N.C. League of Municipalities, the group that represents cities and towns.
Copies of the letters were also sent to mayors of Goldsboro, Kinston, Fayetteville, Wilmington, Rocky Mount and Lexington. All of those cities have pending legal actions involving annexation laws.
The move was immediately hailed by annexation opponents.
“Senator Berger and the North Carolina have taken a principled stand that they will not allow stubborn mayors and city officials to ignore our recently-enacted victory over forced municipal annexation,” said Dallas Woodhouse, director of Americans for Prosperity – North Carolina, a conservative activist group.
But annexation supporters took a different view.
“We have a great deal of respect for Senator Berger and appreciate all he has tried to do to insure that our communities continue to grow for the benefit of all involved,” said Kelli Kukura, the league's lobbyist. “The League of Municipalities is not party to this lawsuit. We also respect the local elected officials, obviously, who fully followed the law as it existed at the time related to these annexations and now they feel it is appropriate to represent their citizens and seek a judicial opinion.”
Berger said the new restrictions on annexations were a compromise.