Under the Dome

Conflict continues over power to appoint

State senators are resurrecting an unemployment insurance bill that the governor vetoed last year in an ongoing power struggle between the legislature and the executive branch.

At issue is who controls the membership of the Board of Review, created in 2011 to hear unemployment claim appeals. Gov. Pat McCrory appointed the first three members in December 2013, but the legislature hasn’t yet voted to confirm the appointments.

Last year the General Assembly passed a bill that would shorten and stagger board members’ terms. McCrory vetoed the bill in June, and since then has sued the General Assembly over what he contends is a trend toward usurping his authority to control membership of executive branch boards and commissions.

Following a recommendation from a legislative oversight committee in January, the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday approved SB15, and sent it to the full Senate for consideration. It shortens and staggers the three members’ terms and sets deadlines for the governor to nominate members or else lose that authority to the legislature. The legislature would have final say in the appointments.

Asked in the meeting if this version of the bill satisfies the governor’s concerns, primary sponsor Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, said the governor "can speak for himself after we pass the bill." Rucho said lawmakers have no problems with the current board members.

In December, McCrory sent a letter to the oversight committee strongly objecting to the proposal. He also objected to another provision that is now in this bill, which would transfer some legal staff from the Division of Employment Security to the Board of Review.

That provision is one part of a broader unemployment insurance bill that Rucho said is aimed at preventing fraud and making the system more efficient. One provision would require those receiving unemployment benefits to contact five instead of the current three potential employers each week, and to provide photo identification to quality for benefits.

Although meeting the requirement to contact employers can be satisfied by applying online, Sen. Dan Blue, a Democrat from Wake County, said he was concerned that not everyone has access to a computer but will take a bus to fill out job applications, and the new requirement could create an impossible burden.

A previous version of this post incorrectly referred to the state agency as the Division of Unemployment Security.