RALEIGH — Gov. Bev Perdue on Saturday vetoed the bill that would opt North Carolina out of the federal health-care overhaul, challenging members of the Republican-controlled General Assembly who had made the legislation one of their top priorities this session.
In her veto message, Perdue called it "an ill-conceived piece of legislation that's not good for the people of North Carolina."
Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham Republican, issued a statement criticizing the governor for putting national Democratic interests ahead of her own state. He said that Perdue had recently been to Washington, where she met with President Barack Obama, who supports the federal overhaul.
"There's no doubt this veto is a political move designed to protect the interests of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Washington Democrats," Berger said. "But it hurts North Carolinians by forcing them to follow an unconstitutional law."
The bill aimed to challenge the law passed last year in Congress requiring most people to buy health insurance in 2014 or be penalized. Two federal judges have declared parts of the law unconstitutional, while others have upheld it. North Carolina would join more than two dozen states challenging it, if the state bill is enacted.
In a YouTube video showing her signing the veto, Perdue listed three reasons for vetoing the legislation: States are prohibited from passing laws "out of obeyance" with federal law, the controversy will reach the U.S. Supreme Court without North Carolina spending time and money to join it, and that there are potentially unintended consequences, including a damaging impact on the state's Medicaid program.
This is Perdue's second veto in a session that has just barely begun. Last month, she vetoed a budget savings bill, saying it would harm the state's job-creation efforts. Republicans chose not to try to override that veto and instead put together a new version of the bill which the Senate passed Wednesday.
Like the budget savings bill, the health care legislation's votes fell along party lines, which means Republicans could be a few votes shy of the three-fifths needed to override the governor's veto.
Perdue had been signaling that she didn't want to pick a fight with GOP legislators on this issue and might let it become law without her signature.
But after the General Assembly passed the bill last month, state Attorney General Roy Cooper called the legislation unconstitutional and said it could endanger federal health-care funding for North Carolina. Cooper said he shouldn't have to defend the state law in court, as the bill requires, because it is unenforceable. Perdue's office then said the governor was reconsidering her options.
Tweets came first
The first indication that Perdue had made up her mind surfaced Saturday morning on Twitter, where House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Mecklenburg Republican, made the announcement, then asked:
"The Gov wants Obamacare to be imposed on North Carolina. What do you think?"
Perdue's office tweeted about 2 p.m. that it was a done deal, and followed that with e-mailed news releases and the YouTube video.
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