Override Hat Trick

Posted July 25, 2011
Updated July 26, 2011

State House lawmakers voted today to override three of Gov. Bev Perdue’s recent vetoes.

Before today, only one of Perdue’s vetoes had been fully overridden – her veto of the budget bill. The Senate has voted to override several others, but it’s been more difficult in the House, where the GOP needs 4 Democrats to muster the 72 votes needed.

Regulatory Reform

The override vote on S781, Regulatory Reform, was 76-42. Nine Democrats voted with the GOP – Brandon, Brisson, Crawford, Goodman, Hill, Jackson, Owens, Spear,and Wray. One Republican – McGrady – voted against the override. (Two members were absent – Jeff Barnhart, R-Cabarrus, and Bill Faison, D-Person.)

Democratic critics urged the House to let the veto stand.

“This is not regulatory reform. This is regulatory retreat,” said Paul Luebke, D-Durham. “This is not good for the people of North Carolina. Because there are many times when we DO need regulations, and we do not need to be making it so difficult for there to BE regulation.”

“If the governor’s veto is overridden,” Luebke said, “then we will make the process of regulation virtually impossible.”

Cumberland Democrat Rick Glazier argued mistakes in the bill would lead to more red tape and regulatory delay, not less. He cited a letter to that effect from Administrative Law professors at Wake Forest, Campbell, and UNC law schools.

Glazier insisted he’s in favor of reform, but not so much that "the cure is worse than the disease," he said. “781 has turned into a legislative jihad on all things regulatory, and that is way too far. That is whiplash to the system,” he cautioned.

But Republicans insisted Democrats were exaggerating the extent to which the bill would limit new environmental rulemaking.

House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, said the measure would help fix the “regulatory gridlock” that he says is discouraging businesses from creating new jobs in North Carolina. “We need this so badly,” he said.

And Wake Republican Marilyn Avila said environmental agencies will be able to make rules when they’re needed. 781, she said, is intended “simply to go in and inventory what we do have on the books” – vague rules, she said, that are subject to interpretation.

The veto of S781 has already been overridden in the Senate, so the measure now becomes law despite the Governor’s objections.

Medical Malpractice Reform

The override of S33, Medical Malpractice Reform, was a fairly complex 74-42 vote.

Ten Democrats voted for the override: Brisson, Crawford, Goodman, Hamilton, Hill, Lucas, Owens, Parfitt, Wilkins, and Wray. Meantime, three Republicans voted to uphold the veto: Blackwell, Daughtry, and Mills. And Democrats Brandon and Spear “took a walk” – they didn’t vote, even though they were present.

Lincoln Republican Johnathan Rhyne urged his colleagues to override the veto, even though the final version doesn’t reflect the House’s intentions on capping non-economic damages.

The House had sought to allow the bill’s $500,000 cap on non-economic damages to be lifted if the patient suffered catastrophic injuries, OR if the doctor was grossly negligent. The Senate version changed that “or” to an “and,” requiring both of those conditions to be met in order to raise the cap.

Rhyne said the need for the rest of the less-controversial provisions in the bill outweighs that change. He told the House that the cap is in line with similar legislation in 30 other states, and said the people who don’t like the cap are “primarily lawyers who sue doctors for a living.”

Hackney disagreed. With the change the Senate made, the bill “does not protect those who are most at risk,” he said. “I think it’s a shame.”

Like S781, S33 also has already been overridden by the Senate, so it too becomes law immediately.

Medicaid/Health Choice Provider Requirement

The override vote on S496, Medicaid/Health Choice Provider Requirement, was 74-41. Seven Democrats voted with the GOP: Brisson, Bryant, Crawford, Goodman, Hill, Jackson, and Spear. Three more Democrats – Adams, Michaux, and Wainwright – took a walk. All Republicans voted to override.

At issue, at least according to Gov. Perdue, was whether the bill would get the state into trouble with Medicaid officials. Federal rules require Medicaid (and other federal grant programs) to be managed by a single state agency. S496 would give the final say in Medicaid appeals to an administrative law judge, not to DHHS, the agency administering the grant.

Democratic critics of the bill said the change could provoke federal officials to withhold some or all of the state's Medicaid money, but Republicans countered that if it did, DHHS could suspend that part of the statute while seeking a waiver from the feds.

S496, too, has already been overridden by the Senate, so it becomes law immediately.

The other six

House lawmakers have six more vetoes on their calendar for potential overrides this week, including Voter ID, offshore drilling, and abortion restrictions.  The fact they weren't taken up today probably means GOP leaders weren't sure they had enough votes to pass among members present and voting.  But that doesn't mean things won't change as the week goes on.  We'll keep you updated.


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