CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina s Attorney General Roy Cooper finds himself fighting for control of the State Bureau of Investigation in a high stakes political dogfight with implications for the 2016 Governor s Race.

Cooper, a Democrat, heads up the state Department of Justice, which for 78 years has run the SBI.

But the state budget proposed by Senate President Phil Berger moves the SBI to the Department of Public Safety, part of the executive branch, currently run by the Republican Governor Pat McCrory.

Local police, sheriffs and prosecutors can call on the SBI to help out with a wide variety of criminal investigations.

But the SBI also can look into public corruption. So Attorney General Roy Cooper says it should stay under his control.

You don't want the very people who may be investigated to be supervising the investigators, Cooper said in an interview with NBC Charlotte, That's why it's critically important that it remain independent. And I hope that the governor and the legislators will see the wisdom of this in the end.

After the February 2 coal ash spill on the Dan River, Cooper says the SBI is assisting in the federal criminal investigation of Governor McCrory's own administration, focusing on the relationship of Duke Energy to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Here you have specialists with the SBI in environmental crimes, investigating public corruption, in financial crimes, in computer forensics, all these areas are critically important in these types of investigations, said Cooper.

While Senator Berger and others proposed the move to save taxpayer money by consolidating law enforcement, Cooper questions the savings as well.

Cooper has not formally announced that he is running for Governor but is widely mentioned as a candidate in 2016.

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