RALEIGH After three false starts the confirmations of Gov. Roy Cooper’s cabinet picks by the N.C. Senate started in earnest Thursday. Subsequent to a legislative subpoena, former state legislator Larry Hall, now serving as Cooper’s secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs, appeared before the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee to answer questions related to his qualifications for the post and potential conflicts of interest.”I am honored and privileged to be entrusted with this responsibility to serve the needs of these great military members represented in this room, and their families who also served,” said Hall before the committee Thursday. “It is my greatest honor and I thank you for the consideration.”While a court case challenging the Senate’s confirmation authority is still undecided, the judicial panel declined halting this week’s proceeding.Hall, a Marine veteran and attorney, served in the N.C. House of Representatives for a decade and was serving as the House Minority Leader when he resigned to serve in Cooper’s cabinet. His military experience, he said, gives him a passionate interest in serving veterans and protecting the state’s military installations.”Every veteran has had a contract with our country and they’ve fulfilled that contract if they’ve been honorably discharged,” said Hall. “What we fail to do is to engage them and ensure they took advantage of every right and privilege they have already earned, and as a result some of our communities and families do not get the benefits of their service.”Hall indicated his focus as secretary is to double the number of veteran-owned businesses, improve education of the relevant services the state offers, and improve the infrastructure related to military bases in order to ameliorate their status during the U.S. Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) reviews.After describing his experiences and qualifications for the committee, Hall was asked questions about the political battle over the confirmation process.”I was in the legislative branch, so I understand the legislative branch trying to assert its authority and power,” admitted Hall. “And I’m now in the executive branch and I understand that dilemma on that side as well. And so I don’t prefer to be a pawn in the process, but I certainly understand that all bodies do what they do, and that keeps the Constitution strong.”While Cooper contests the Senate’s authority court, a recent poll from High Point University found that 54 percent of North Carolinians believe the Senate should play a role in confirming the governor’s nominees. Only 29 percent felt it should not play role.Much of the obfuscation of the issue results from Cooper’s assertion that he has not officially submitted his nominees to the legislature for consideration and feels he is not required to until May 15. The question of whether Hall was in fact the governor’s nominee for secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs was raised at the hearing.”I’m currently executing duties that would normally be carried out by the secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs so I feel I am serving in that capacity,” said Hall when asked if he was officially serving in the role.Pressed on why he failed to show up for the previous three meetings and whether Cooper instructed him to do so, Hall said he was not directly told by the governor to skip the meetings.”It was my understanding that the proceeding would not be appropriate at that time.” said Hall, adding that based on the subpoena he did not want to be held in contempt of the court by not attending Thursday’s meeting.When questions concluded the committee voted to recommend Hall for confirmation to the Senate Committee on Nominations. The next court ruling on the matter is scheduled for March 7. Seven more appointments are scheduled for confirmation hearings in coming weeks.
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