Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory issued the first veto of his administration Thursday, rejecting legislation that would have required people applying for welfare benefits to pass a drug test.
House Bill 392 also would have required social service offices to verify applicants' criminal history and share that information with law enforcement. The governor signed an executive order to carry out that portion of the bill.
"I think the legislature did overreach on this bill," McCrory said. "It’s almost impossible for us to have a consistent method and a fair method to implement such a measure in 100 counties in North Carolina. I think it’s going to be legally tested, and frankly, it costs too much to do. You won’t get return on your money."
The governor pointed to the failure of similar drug-testing programs in Florida, Utah, Arizona and other states, saying "it makes no sense to repeat those mistakes in North Carolina.”
“This is not a smart way to combat drug abuse,” he said in a statement.
The executive order, dubbed “Strengthening Fugitive Apprehension and Protecting Public Benefits,” directs state agencies to develop a plan and recommend the best way to exchange information about fugitive felons.
House Speaker Thom Tillis said he was disappointed by the veto, although he backs McCrory's executive order. He didn't say whether he was in favor of voting to possibly override the veto.
"This bill would establish safeguards for our state’s public assistance system, ensuring compliance with federal laws and guaranteeing that recipients are law-abiding individuals," Tillis said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union applauded the move, saying drug testing would have violated the privacy of welfare applicants.
"All available evidence has shown that welfare applicants are no more likely to use drugs than the general public," Jennifer Rudinger, state director of the ACLU, said in a statement. "Forcing people in need to pay up front for an invasive test without reasonable suspicion of drug use would have been cruel, costly, and constitutionally suspect."