NCGA Week in Review

September 16, 2016

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Interim Committee Meetings

Justice and Public Safety Oversight

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety had their first meeting of the interim yesterday. At their meeting, the committee discussed criminal gang criminal activity sentencing and the status of mental health care in the state’s prison system.

Principal Legislative Attorney for the General Assembly’s Legislative Analysis Division Susan Sitze along with Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman and Detective Chuck Hastings from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department presented to the committee on prosecuting gang activity in the state.

Additionally, the committee heard an update on prison mental health from the Director of Prisons George Solomon. Currently, 15% of the state’s 36,297 prisoners receive behavioral health services.

To view all materials and presentations made at yesterday’s meeting, click here. The committee will meet again in the coming weeks; their next meeting date has not been announced.

Program Evaluation Oversight

On Monday, the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee heard a presentation from State Auditor Beth Wood. Wood on the findings her office often finds when performing audits. She highlighted management oversight of programs, contract administration, information technology project implementation and security as the four main areas where state departments, agencies and administrations are deficient.

Additionally, the committee was updated on the Overnight Respite Pilot program that was authorized in 2011. The legislation directed the Department of Human Services to implement a pilot program in facilities that provide adult day care to provide overnight services; the services could only be funded privately under the pilot.

The committee will meet again on October 10, 2016.

Spotlight on Vetoed Legislation

History of the Veto in NC

It was not until 1996 that NC approved of giving the Governor veto power, making it the last state in the nation to do so. The history of the state’s reluctance to adopt the veto dates back to the strains Great Britain placed upon the colony, which caused the original constitution drafters to fear executive tyranny in 1776. Ultimately, the General Assembly passed SB 3: Veto- 1 in the 1995-1996 session. The legislation put the issue in the hands of voters, who approved of a constitutional amendment to give the Governor this power. The referendum passed with 75% of voters in favor. Since then, Governors James Hunt, Mike Easley, Beverly Perdue and Pat McCrory have exercised this right of the office.

To read more about the state’s history with the veto, click here.

Veto Statistics & Quick Facts

  • Since 1996, North Carolina’s governors have vetoed 35 total bills.
  • Beverly Purdue, who served as Governor when the Republicans regained control of the General Assembly for the first time since 1898, was the most frequent user of the power to date, vetoing a total of 20 bills from 2009-2013.
  • The General Assembly has overridden 16 vetoes to date, eleven of Perdue’s, four of McCrory’s and one of Easley’s.
  • To override a veto, three-fifths of both the House and Senate must vote in favor of an override.
  • Republicans in both the House and Senate currently have a veto proof majority.
  • The House requires 72 members of one party to be considered veto proof and 30 in the Senate.

For more information on the bills that have been vetoed by NC’s governors, click here.

Governor McCrory’s Vetoes

Governor Pat McCrory has issued six vetoes since his inauguration in 2013, which has spanned two legislative bienniums. 

2013-2014 Legislative Biennium

HB 392: Warrant Status/ Drug Screen Public Assist.: Though the Governor vetoed HB 392, the legislature was able to override his veto and the legislation went into effect on October 1, 2013. HB 392 reformed the state’s welfare programs to require the Department of Social Services to verify whether applicants and recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Food and Nutrition Services are a probation or parole violator or a fleeing felon. Additionally the legislation requires drug testing for certain applicants. In the Governor’s veto message, he states that the bill would be a step back in combating substance abuse, that it could have negative impacts on children and families and that the means for reasonable suspicion are not strong enough to mandate a drug test under the Fourth Amendment. 

HB 786: RECLAIM NC Act: HB 786 was vetoed by the Governor, but was overridden by the legislature and went into effect on September 4, 2013. The legislation directed the Department of Public Safety to study measures for addressing illegal immigration in NC and clarified which employees are subject to e-verify laws. In his objections and veto message, the Governor reiterated his election promise to find jobs for North Carolinians and cited that the state had the fifth highest unemployment rate at the time. Governor McCrory objected to increasing the seasonal employee exemption from 90-days to almost nine months and stated that the legislation provided a loophole to exempt more employees in the state from proving if they are legal citizens.

HB 1069: Unemployment Insurance Law Changes: Had HB 1069 become law, the legislation would have amended the state’s unemployment insurance laws and would have amended the membership of the Board of Review for Unemployment Insurance. In his veto message, the Governor objected only to changing the composition of the Board and stated that the three appointees of the Board had performed well. The General Assembly did not attempt to override the Governor’s veto.

2015-2016 Legislative Biennium

SB 2: Magistrates Recusal for Civil Ceremonies: Shortly after the US Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, which required all states to recognize gay marriage and nullified NC’s constitutional amendment against gay marriage, the General Assembly passed SB 2. This legislation allowed court magistrates, assistant registers of deeds, and deputy registers of deeds to recuse themselves from performing marriages due to sincerely held religious beliefs. The Governor issued a veto message that stated that regardless of religious belief, all public officials must uphold the Constitution and the duties of their office. McCrory’s veto was overridden and SB 2 has been in effect since June 11, 2015.

HB 405: Property Protection Act: This legislation aims to protect businesses from employees who seek employment with the sole purpose of uncovering potential whistleblower activity. Though the Governor vetoed HB 405 because he believed it did not adequately protect honest employees who uncover criminal activity, the legislature overrode his veto. HB 405 went into effect on January 1, 2016.

SB 71: Comm’n Appointment Modifications: The most recent bill vetoed by Governor McCrory would have reinstated the Coal Ash Management Commission, which had been disbanded by Governor McCrory in March. The legislature gave SB 71 approval in June before it was vetoed by the Governor. The Governor stated that the legislature’s attempt to re-instate the commission as an overreach of legislative authority. The legislature made no attempt to override the veto and passed HB 630 in its place, which formally eliminates the commission.