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Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed his first two bills on Thursday legislation that would have given social services workers license to drug test some people applying for welfae, and an immigration bill that would have expanded the definition of seasonal workers.
McCrory, in a statement his office released on the drug-testing bill, said he supported another provision in the bill making sure that fugitive felons are not on public assistance and so he has issued an executive order to strengthen criminal background checks and information sharing. The governor directed state agencies to develop recommendations on how best to exchange information about fugitive felons.
While I support the efforts to ensure that fugitive felons are not on public assistance rolls, and to share information about them with law enforcement, other parts of this bill are unfair, fiscally irresponsible and have potential operational problems, McCrory said.
The immigration bill, House Bill 786, was a drastically watered-down version of an original bill that would have combined driving permits for people here illegally with stringent provisions to change how immigrants are treated in the criminal justice system. But near the end of the General Assemblys session, it became just a bill to study those issues for future consideration.
The bill included a provision spelling out the responsibilities of employers to use the E-Verify online check of employees eligibility. Thats what McCrory found objectionable about the legislation, calling it a loophole that would allow businesses to exempt a higher percentage of their employees from proving they are legal U.S. citizens or residents.
McCrory said the bill would have expanded the definition of seasonal workers from 90 days to nearly nine months, which would open the seasonal exemption to other industries besides agriculture. That, the governor said, would make it easier to hire illegal immigrants. The governor recommended the E-Verify section of the bill also be studied, and he criticized the legislature for not providing funds to conduct the study of the rest of the bill, calling it fiscally irresponsible.
House Speaker and fellow Republican Thom Tillis, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Kay Hagan, issued a statement shortly after the veto announcements objecting to McCrorys decisions. He said he planned to consult with members of the House and Senate about how to move forward.
Tillis said the drug-testing bill was straightforward, and would deny government assistance to a felon fleeing from justice or to those who have violated parole and establish safeguards for the states public assistance system.
Tillis said the immigration bill was designed to help alleviate the problems that employers in the state face because of federal immigration procedures and policies.
The regulatory burden and complexity caused by federal inaction requires us to consider stop-gap measures while we wait for politicians in D.C. to take action, he said. This bill received strong bipartisan support and sought to provide clarity to employers and agencies regarding the impact of illegal immigration in North Carolina.
The drug-testing bill, House Bill 392, sponsored by Rep. Dean Arp, a Republican from Monroe, would have made people applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, also called Work First, take drug tests before getting aid if they are suspected of drug use. The bill also would have required county Department of Social Services offices to make sure applicants didnt have outstanding felony warrants for arrest, and werent violating parole or probation. If deemed necessary, DSS workers could have required fingerprinting, as well.
But during House Bill 392s journey through the legislature this session, its most contested provision was drug testing of Work First applicants.
Originally, all applicants would have to take drug tests. But in a review of the legislation, Rep. Sarah Stevens learned that blanket drug testing is unconstitutional. So Stevens, a Mount Airy Republican, changed the bills language. The final version required reasonable suspicion, which could mean a social services worker finds an applicant has been arrested or charged with a drug-related offense in the past three years, or a substance abuse expert finds the applicants appearance or behavior suspicious. Other methods for finding reasonable suspicion could have been established by a Department of Health and Human Services commission.
The bill would have required applicants to pay for the drug tests, and would have only been reimbursed if they tested negative. Those who tested positive would turned away, and referred to drug treatment services.
The final version of the bill received bipartisan support, because of the limited nature of the drug testing. But some lawmakers still found the legislation unnecessary, saying it will weaken the states safety net for low-income residents.