Under the Dome

Cooper vetoes looser rules on water pollution

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announces during a press conference at the Executive Mansion on June 26, 2017, in Raleigh, his plans to veto the budget bill from the legislature.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announces during a press conference at the Executive Mansion on June 26, 2017, in Raleigh, his plans to veto the budget bill from the legislature. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Gov. Roy Cooper handed down two more vetoes Monday evening, including a plan to loosen water quality rules.

The water rules are in Senate Bill 16, which also imposes limitations on local governments’ power over landfill permits – the latest in a series of power shifts from local to state government.

The bill, titled “Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2017,” is a 16-page grab bag of deregulation provisions. Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican, said during debate the final bill was a compromise because it didn’t feature more controversial provisions repealing the Outer Banks plastic shopping bag ban and dropping requirements for coal ash disposal.

Instead, the bill would place some exemptions on requiring stormwater restrictions for new or redevelopment building projects. It would direct the Environmental Management Commission and the Department of Environmental Quality not to require stormwater permits for a new residential project unless it creates more than 10,000 square feet of roads, parking lots or other impervious surfaces.

The Democratic governor wrote in his veto message that “we should make it easier, not harder, for state and local governments to protect water quality, whether through stormwater safeguards or by giving public health departments the ability to revisit wastewater permits if needed. Rolling back ways to protect water quality is dangerous.”

Both of the bills Cooper vetoed were passed in the General Assembly’s one-day extra session earlier this month.

House Bill 770, titled “Various Clarifying Changes,” would tweak the formula for school achievement scores, fix what legislators said was a mistake in budget allocations for mental health agencies, and reduce the number of appointments the governor can make to the N.C. Medical Board. The governor currently has six appointments; under the bill, two of his appointments would be shifted to legislative leaders.

Cooper is opposing the change, as well as a provision allowing a single state employee to serve in a paid role on the Property Tax Commission while taking vacation time.

“This special pay benefit for one employee getting two state salaries is unnecessary and unfair to other state employees," Cooper wrote in his veto message. “In addition, the legislature taking two appointments to the state's Medical Board is an intrusion on executive authority and not needed.”

With Monday's vetoes, Cooper has addressed all the legislation pending on his desk. The legislature will have the opportunity to override the vetoes when it returns later this month, and earlier votes indicate Republicans will have the votes needed for a successful override.

Cooper has now issued 11 vetoes during his first 7 1/2 months in office. The General Assembly overrode five vetoes during the annual work session, including the state government budget.

The Associated Press contributed.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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