Rough riders

Success in veto overrides means failure for good government. Voters' photo ID thankfully fell short.

July 31, 2011 

It's been quite a show on Jones Street in recent days, but not one that calls for any applause. Republicans in the General Assembly have gone about the business of overriding Gov. Beverly Perdue's vetoes of some truly spectacular misfires out of the GOP caucus.

An exception was a self-interested bit of lawmaking called a voter ID bill, which would have required photo identification from all those casting ballots, in the name of preventing voter fraud in North Carolina. Fraud has occurred about as often as icebergs in the fountains at the Legislative Building. The real motivation was to suppress Democratic votes from the elderly or poor people and others who might lack driver's licenses.

Fraud is a non-problem, and Republicans know it, even those tea party members who like to pretend otherwise.

Unfortunately, some right-minded vetoes were overridden. In one curious bit of mischief, Republicans ignored warnings from federal officials, former state labor officials and their colleagues and successfully rejected the governor's veto of their bill to change the processes in unemployment insurance and expand the definitions of how benefits can be denied. This, presumably, was part of the overheated agenda to make North Carolina "business-friendly," though it already ranks in the top states for its attractiveness to business.

Fair warning

As Harry Payne, former state labor commissioner and also former head of the Employment Security Commission, noted in an article that appeared on the opposite page, federal officials write rules on unemployment insurance and going against them sets up a fight the state would be highly unlikely to win.

Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross of Raleigh, an attorney, asked House members why they would override a veto of something "we know has problems."

Then there is the abortion issue, where Republicans have successfully defeated the governor again with an overbearing, insulting requirement that women seeking an abortion must be shown an ultrasound, wait 24 hours and receive counseling before they proceed. The governor and many others have stated it best: This puts the government right into doctors' offices. Republicans apparently welcome it there, even as they condemn government intervention everywhere else.

Other mischief made with successful overrides included limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and dilution of important environmental and other regulations dealing with business.

What a spectacle

The veto overrides, which Republican leaders treated almost as an amusing sideshow (amusing to them, at least), threw the spotlight on a dysfunctional, clumsily led General Assembly focused on helping special interest groups, hurting workers and weakening laws that have helped North Carolina maintain its spectacular and highly valuable natural resources.

The most significant clash of all involved the state budget, vetoed by Perdue as rife with unwise and unnecessary cuts when revenues - from a sales tax surcharge that legislators allowed to expire - were left on the table. In the end, legislators got their way. Now the layoffs and program cutbacks can proceed in earnest.

Veto overrides were sad markers of a General Assembly that failed in a mission that should have been about laws protecting workers and the environment, bolstering the economy and maintaining North Carolina's tradition of fair leadership.

Don't worry, though. Lawmakers are coming to Raleigh in another special session this fall to play an encore. Then, they'll take up some disturbing constitutional amendments including a ban on gay marriage or on recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships. Three-fifths of both chambers must approve such amendments before the people vote on them.

These notions fall in the category of "quit preachin' and gone to meddlin'" and it is embarrassing that elected officials would try to force their personal social conservatism on everybody by amending the document that is the framework for government.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service