McCrory loses veto showdown in North Carolina

September 4, 2013 

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Gov. Pat McCrory surely helped some Republican candidates for the legislature in the 2012 election, when he took the state’s top elected office and became the first Republican governor in over 100 years to enjoy his party’s control of both houses of the General Assembly.

Maybe, at this point, enjoy isn’t exactly the right word.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the state House and Senate overrode the governor on the only two bills he vetoed. Neither bill seemed Earth-shaking, but by rejecting them the governor was able to demonstrate a slight measure of independence from a willful, single-minded Republican General Assembly.

The GOP’s rush

One bill requires the state to test Work First applicants or recipients whom the agency “reasonably suspects” are engaged in illegal drug use. Supporters say it will ensure that welfare funds are distributed wisely. McCrory said the bill would be expensive and wouldn’t help many drug abusers. The governor and other opponents also indicated concern about invasion of privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union had praised the veto.

The other bill exempts employers from having to use the federal E-Verify system to check the legal status of temporary employees who work less than nine months in a calendar year. The current law uses a three-month cut-off period. McCrory said the legislation doesn’t apply just to agriculture – the intended focus of the bill – and will mean North Carolinians will lose out on jobs.

The governor, whose popularity numbers have been falling in some polls, has gone along with this all-or-nothing legislature on a multitude of issues, though he came to office with a reputation of being in the mold of two moderate Republican governors, Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin. On these two bills, he’s indicated he may fight on.

But McCrory signed off on one law that potentially will limit access to abortion, even after he had vowed he would not support restrictions. And he stood by when lawmakers declined to expand Medicaid and when they cut unemployment benefits, two mean-spirited maneuvers that happened even though the federal government would have covered the expenses.

It was as if GOP lawmakers believed they had to get their entire tea party agenda accomplished in one session.

Locked out?

Legislative leaders insist they respect the governor of their party despite the veto overrides, but their actions this week indicate otherwise. McCrory seems a fellow left out of the decision-making process on the legislation that really matters and ignored even on legislation that doesn’t matter much.

To be fair to McCrory, it’s quite true that governors customarily don’t work the halls of the Legislative Building. They don’t like it much, and the leaders of the House and Senate aren’t crazy about it, either.

This time out, however, legislative leaders treated their governor as if he were something of a nuisance. And McCrory’s failure to push an agenda of his own hasn’t helped.

The Republicans have demonstrated again that their path to lawmaking is a one-way street with no stoplights. That works – for a while. But the people of North Carolina, proud of their state as a leader of the “New South” and protective of its reputation, will tire of the embarrassing ways of the cowboys on Jones Street.

And this is not what Pat McCrory, the long-time mayor of Charlotte, thought he was signing up for when he launched his hat into the ring in 2008. He believed his skills in getting along with different groups in the Queen City would transfer to Raleigh, and even since taking office he has talked about how he has been “stepping on toes” on both sides.

Republicans in the legislature have basically told him he might as well put his feet up.

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