Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue this morning sidetracked a Republican effort to get North Carolina to join 15 other states who have filed a lawsuit challenging the new federal health care law.
Republicans had hoped to get the Council of State — a body of the state's 10 top executive branch elected officials — to appropriate money to pay for legal fees for such a suit, Rob Christensen reports.
But Perdue said it was inappropriate for the council to take up the health care issue because the state's chief lawyer, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, was in Charlotte attending a law enforcement meeting that she said had been scheduled for months.
"This is a legal issue," Perdue said. "Attorney General Cooper is not with us."
That brought a protest from Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, a Republican, who said a quorum was present and a discussion should be permitted.
But Perdue declined to allow further discussion.
"That is just the way it is....As such that is the end of the question," Perdue said.
The governor said if Berry thought it was important to address the issue immediately, she was free to act independently.
"Anybody here can file a lawsuit," Perdue said, "It's part of being American to sue."
After the meeting, Berry said she didn't think Perdue had followed the rules that allows any council member to bring up an issue for discussion.
She also expressed disappointment that Cooper didn't change his schedule to attend the council meeting. Another council member not present, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a U.S. Senate candidate, participated in the meeting by telephone — a common practice for such meetings.
"When Attorney General Cooper approached that microphone on April 11, 2007, and pronounced those Duke lacrosse players innocent I cheered him for doing the right thing," Berry said. "I hope to be able to cheer him again when he steps up and takes leadership that I know he is capable of and protects the rights and freedoms of North Carolina citizens."
She was referring to the famous case in which Cooper exonerated three Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of rape.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, a Republican, also urged the council to consider the health care law.
Two blocks away from the council meeting, about 150 opponents of the health care law held a rally urging Perdue and Cooper to join the law suit. The rally, sponsored by the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group, attracted key GOP lawmakers including Senate Republican leader Phil Berger of Eden and House Republican leader Paul "Skip" Stam of Apex.
Republicans have said they will introduce legislation when the legislature reconvenes in May to allow citizens to opt out any mandates of the new health care law.
Those attending the rally carried such signs as "Obamacare is socialism" and "Kill The Bill."