Lawmakers return to Raleigh on Tuesday to consider overriding vetoes of two immigration and drug-testing-for-welfare-recipients bills. House Republican leaders may think they have enough votes, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has been fighting to the end to sway them, using new media to get his points across and relying on old-fashioned endorsements.
On Friday, the governor’s office released statements from six county sheriffs supporting the veto of the immigration bill, H.B. 786. The sheriffs, like the governor, oppose a provision in the bill that would expand the exemption from the E-Verify immigration-status system for seasonal workers from 90 days to up to nine months.
McCrory has said that creates a loophole that could open the door for other industries besides agriculture to hire seasonal workers and take jobs away from legal residents. Some of the sheriffs echo those sentiments, and add other concerns.
Permitting more seasonal workers will lead to additional illegal immigration and affect schools, hospitals, roads and social programs, as well as increase the number of unlicensed drivers, Guilford Sheriff B.J. Barnes said.
The agricultural industry has been pushing for an override, saying it needs seasonal workers for a longer period to handle crops. More than a dozen industry associations have written to the General Assembly asking for the override, and state Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler has sided with them.
Other sheriffs expressing support for the veto are Sam Page of Rockingham County, Chipp Bailey of Mecklenburg County, Chris Batten of Columbus County, Alan Cloninger of Gaston County and Bill Schatzman of Forsyth County.
Lt. Gov.: ‘Close the loophole’
Also lining up behind the governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest announced he supports the veto of the immigration bill. Forest sent out a news release acknowledging the General Assembly can muster enough votes to override the veto when it convenes for a veto session Tuesday.
“But I respectfully ask that they do not do so,” Forest said.
The lieutenant governor’s opposition to the bill is the same as the governor’s: that it carves out a loophole that would allow employers other than those in the agricultural industry to classify some workers as seasonal for a longer time than is permitted under current law. The loophole “will be exploited by some unscrupulous employers to reclassify nonagricultural workers as ‘seasonal’ for the purposes of evading the E-Verify law,” Forest said.
Meanwhile, a number of McCrory’s supporters have been calling legislators, urging them not to override. Among them is Bill Graham, a Salisbury attorney, who McCrory defeated in the Republican primary for governor in 2008.
Graham, who remains active in Republican politics and is a major GOP donor, said he had talked with McCrory about his reasons for vetoing a bill requiring people applying for the state’s Work First program to be tested if a social worker suspects them of drug abuse. The legislation also would require felony background checks for people applying for food stamps.
Failing grades for legislators
Opponents of the Republican legislative agenda will be at the government complex to hand out “report cards” that grade individual legislators and the House and Senate on laws they supported.
Because the grades were determined by opponents, the House and Senate both got F’s, and lots of Republican lawmakers received zeros, though a few reached scores of 10 and 20.
Democrats tended to do better under this grading system. The report is an effort of the Forward Together Movement, led by the state NAACP and its president, the Rev. William Barber.
The grades are based on votes on 20 bills that opponents criticized, from the budget to the tax bill to the overhaul of state regulations.
Reps. Howard, Rucho honored
Rep. Julia Howard and Sen. Bob Rucho have been named the 2013 recipients of the Unemployment Insurance Integrity Award given by the Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers Compensation. UWC is a national association that represents the business community on unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation public policy issues.
“The North Carolina Chamber and its members commend the leadership of Rep. Howard and Sen. Rucho in reforming our state’s broke and broken unemployment system,’’ said Lew Ebert, chamber president. “We are pleased to see them be recognized for their hard work in shifting our focus from unemployment to re-employment.’’
Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Lynn Bonner and Rob Christensen
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