- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Latest on litigation between North Carolina’s Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders over the governor’s powers (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

A panel of judges says a law approved by North Carolina Republican lawmakers shifting election oversight powers away from the new Democratic governor won’t be enforced until Goy. Roy Cooper’s lawsuit challenging those changes is resolved.

Three judges are issuing an injunction that extends a temporary block on carrying out the law that would merge the State Board of Election and the State Ethics Commission. The word came late Thursday from a court administrator writing to the lawyers in the case on behalf of the judges.

The ruling came a few hours after the judges heard oral arguments from attorneys for Cooper and Republican legislative leaders. Cooper argues the legislature went too far in giving lawmakers half of the appointments on the new combined board when it’s his job to ensure election laws are faithfully executed.

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2 p.m.

A hearing has ended on a law passed by North Carolina Republican legislators that shifted authority over elections away from the new Democratic governor, with no immediate ruling on whether its enforcement will face further delays.

The panel of three state judges heard more than two hours of arguments Thursday from lawyers for Gov. Roy Cooper and GOP legislative leaders. One judge said the panel is aware of the urgency for a ruling. A temporary hold for carrying out the law expires early next week.

Cooper sued to block the law that was approved two weeks before he took office. The law merged the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission. His lawyer told the judges the composition of the combined panel is unconstitutional because legislators would interfere with Cooper’s duties to carry out laws. Attorneys for the lawmakers disagree.

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11:40 a.m.

Lawyers for North Carolina’s new Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers are arguing about whether a law passed quickly last month unlawfully limited Gov. Roy Cooper’s powers to carry out elections.

A three-judge panel heard from the attorneys Thursday as it considers whether to extend a temporary hold on the law merging the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission. A governor previously had the power to make all election board appointments.

Cooper attorney Jim Phillips says the law went too far by giving half of the combined panel’s positions to the legislative leaders.

But Noah Huffstetler, a lawyer for House and Senate leaders, says the election board always has been independent of the governor.

Cooper sued the GOP lawmakers. It’s their latest conflict since he narrowly defeated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in November.

It’s unclear when the judges will rule.

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7:10 a.m.

The last-minute efforts of Republican lawmakers to limit the powers of North Carolina’s incoming Democratic governor before he was sworn in are back in court.

A three-judge panel scheduled a hearing Thursday in Raleigh about a law new Gov. Roy Cooper sued over last week before he took office on Sunday.

Cooper argues the law passed last month to strip him of the authority to oversee elections statewide is unconstitutional. GOP legislators say the law promotes bipartisanship. A temporary hold was put on enforcing the law pending the result of Thursday’s hearing.

The law merges the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission and splits appointment powers of the combined board between the governor and legislative leaders. The old law directed Cooper to make all election board appointments.

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