RALEIGH Gov. Roy Cooper presided over the first N.C. Council of State meeting of 2017 Tuesday, providing for introductions of new members, updates from council departments, and votes on official state business.The 2016 elections that brought Cooper into the governor’s mansion also ushered in a new majority to the council for the first time in many cycles, with Republicans winning six of 10 elected statewide positions. A Democrat at the executive helm creates a new bipartisan dynamic for a body that, in addition to approving routine state property sales and the like, also serves as a forum for meaningful state policy and regulatory discussions as well as critical updates from agriculture to insurance.At the inaugural meeting, Cooper heard damage assessment activities from Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler (R), surmising that both state and federal lawmakers “will have to have another bite at the apple” to address disaster relief.From new Treasurer Dale Folwell (R) the council received updates and sober analysis of the state pensions performance.”The return on our pension for the last fiscal year was less than one percent,” said Folwell. “So we have some major mathematical challenges.”Distinct from the governor’s appointed cabinet positions, the Council of State is made up of nine statewide elected positions and chaired by the governor. The body dates back to the colonial era, as a “Governor’s Council” made up of the upper house of the legislature. Then after independence a Council of State was appointed by the legislature to provide checks to the governor’s power.Though the legislature obviously no longer appoints Council of State members, the partisan distribution across the council after recent elections seems to fit well with the original aims to achieve a balance of powers. With Republicans maintaining super-majorities in the General Assembly and a newly elected Democratic executive, already sparring in court over questions of legal authority, they may both benefit from the closer communications afforded the council through their meetings and discussions.
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