Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday said he has just begun to consider whether to sign a controversial bill now on his desk that has attracted opposition from state and national animal welfare advocates.
He has until the end of this week to decide whether to sign it into law, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
“We’re reviewing that right now,” McCrory said Wednesday. “I just started that yesterday. I spent a good bit of time getting opinions from all sides. I’m in the process of reviewing that bill and several other bills at this time.”
House Bill 405 would allow employers to sue employees who steal merchandise or data, or who film or take unauthorized photos of their workplaces. It is the third attempt in the legislature to pass what has been called an “ag-gag” bill – thwarting embarrassing undercover investigations of conditions at agricultural operations – but this time supporters broadened the proposal to include any business.
People advocating for and against the bill disagree on whether current whistleblower law would protect employees if the bill becomes law.
Sponsors called the bill the Property Protection Act and they, along with the N.C. Chamber, say it’s misleading to call it an “ag-gag” bill because it covers much more. But that’s what animal welfare organizations have focused on.
The Humane Society of the United States says it is spending $50,000 on an ad on broadcast and cable channels urging the governor to veto the bill. Other groups have organized celebrity Twitter campaigns, and are working on other fronts to stop the bill from becoming law.
On Wednesday, about 50 members of the group Mercy for Animals stood with blindfolds on and tape over their mouths, carrying placards on the State Capitol grounds. The organization has exposed animal abuse at farms across the country through the kind of undercover operation that it believes would expose it to lawsuits under HB405.
The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House and by a narrower margin in the Senate. It was presented to the governor on May 20, and he has 10 days to act.