Editorial: Five bills Gov. McCrory should veto
Posted July 8
-- Five bills, from inadequately dealing with coal ash to manipulating election laws that aid a family member, do little to help North Carolina or enable its people live better lives.
-- These bills display a disregard for transparency and public input in the legislative process.
-- Will Gov. Pat McCrory exercise sound judgment and independence by vetoing these bills?
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A CBC editorial: Friday July 8, 2016; Editorial# 8027
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
When the current session of the General Assembly came to a close last week there were several items that just faded away. North Carolina is better off for it. A group of ill-conceived amendments to the state constitution languished without final resolution. So did a so-called regulatory reform bill that would have severely hampered the state’s growing clean energy economy.
But enough about the bad stuff that didn’t happen. Plenty of bad bills did manage to win approval and – once signed by the governor --- will become law. Here are five bills on Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk that are worthy of a big red VETO stamp:
HB 630: Drinking Water Protection/Coal Ash Cleanup Act -- We agree with state Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Henderson County, who opposed the bill because it will result in the state’s largest coal ash basins being classified as “low risk” and likely being capped in place. He bluntly noted he had “no confidence” in the Department of Environment Quality to adequately or properly enforce the law. This invitation for more expensive battling in the courts and between state and federal regulators is certainly veto worthy.
HB 972: Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record -- Law enforcement body and dashboard cameras are rapidly becoming a basic part of law enforcement. The information they collect and what they reveal can provide critical crime scene information, helping to convict the guilty and absolve the innocent. They also can show the behavior of officers and suspects.
One of the goals of the bill is certainly worthy – a statewide standard to replace what is now a patch-work set of regulations and practices for release of police-cam videos.
But this legislation earns a veto recommendation because it goes too far in another area. The bill presumes that police video is NOT a public record and requires citizens to go to court to gain access. We think it should be the opposite – the footage should be presumed public – and available to be viewed as such and particularly by those involved in the incident in question. If police have a compelling reason to withhold it, they should be the ones to make that case.
McCrory should veto this bill and ask the legislature to change it. Making these videos public records will keep the public’s business in the open and aid in building community confidence and support for law enforcement.
HB 1030: The Budget (the text and the report) -- Wrong priorities, short-changed public schools, universities and community colleges, continued inadequate compensation for the vast majority of state workers and more. We could go on, and will, in a subsequent editorial. Veto it, governor.
HB 1080: Establish Achievement School District -- Looking at ways to get the lowest performing elementary schools to up their game is a critical goal. But the approach outlined in this legislation is less about making public schools work than giving opponents of public schools another tool for their assault.
When proponents of the legislation brought in experts from other states who’d tried the ideas outlined in the bill, they offered a clear message -- intentions were good, but the programs didn’t show any significant results. Our legislators should have listened.
This legislation is a thinly-veiled guise to give for-profit operators the opportunity to take over public schools. The last minute, ramrod Senate Education Committee hearing on the bill is more than adequate evidence this legislation is a deadly mix of a bad idea meeting even worse implementation. It is more than worthy of the governor’s veto stamp.
SB 667: Elections Omnibus Revisions -- If there is a poster child for legislative excess and the hubris of a powerful legislator, this bill could be it. It contains the fingerprints, smudges and probably the DNA of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham County, who appears to think that state government is also a family business.
Berger apparently wants to help assure that his son, currently a state administrative hearings officer, land a job as a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. In the final hours of the legislative session, a Senate-passed bill originally dealing with “principle-based valuation in the Life Insurance Standard Valuation Law” was gutted and transformed in the state House.
The real purpose of the new legislation is to boost the chances of Phil Berger Jr. winning the November election against incumbent Judge Linda Stephens. If this bill becomes law, Berger’s name will appear above Stephens' on the ballot; without the law change Stephens’ name would be on top. It should come as no surprise that Stephens is a Democrat and Berger a Republican – though the appeals court races are technically non-partisan.
We can understand the elder Berger’s concern for his son. After all, just a couple of years ago he thought his son would be elected to Congress after Howard Coble retired from the 6th District seat. But, Republican primary voters in the district didn’t quite see it that way, and the younger Berger lost in an upset.
Sure, the elder Berger might want to make sure his son has every advantage in the fall election. But this isn’t a campaign for class president or jockeying for a starting position on a Little League team. Elections are serious business and should not be subject to last-minute parental interference -- even by the most powerful person in the legislature.
If Gov. McCrory is looking for an opportunity to show his independence from the heavy-handed leadership in the General Assembly, vetoing this bill is perfect place to start.