Several bills could be voted on in override session
Posted January 2, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers will return to Raleigh Wednesday to consider overriding a veto of a law benefiting death row inmates, but they could take up other vetoed legislation as well.
Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed Senate Bill 9, which would have essentially repealed the Racial Justice Act. The 2-year-old law allows death row inmates to challenge their sentences by using statistical evidence to show racial bias played a role.
Prosecutors and other critics of the law say it was too broadly written, noting that all but three of the roughly 160 people on North Carolina's death row have filed claims under the law, including white inmates whose victims were also white.
Perdue said she supports the death penalty but has said it's essential that it be carried out fairly because it's the ultimate punishment.
Inmates who convince a judge that bias was a factor in their sentences would have their death sentences commuted to life in prison without parole.
The state constitution says lawmakers can take up vetoed bills only during an override session, but there are several high-profile vetoes waiting in the wings that could be addressed by lawmakers this week.
Republican leaders could also try to override vetoes of bills that would require voters to present identification at the polls, challenge the federal health care reform law, allow a controversial method of natural gas exploration and prohibit the North Carolina Association of Educators from using payroll deductions to collect dues from teachers.
"I am not aware of anything else that's going to be taken up (other than Senate Bill 9), but theoretically, we could take up lots of things," House Majority Leader Paul Stam said.
House Minority Whip Deborah Ross said she hopes lawmakers will stick to the Racial Justice Act bill.
"People are traveling. People are out. Lobbyists and the public are not able to have an influence over what happens," said Ross, D-Wake. "We've been called back for one reason under the constitution, and we need to stick to that business and then go home."
Because of absences, House Republicans would likely need only four Democratic allies to override any veto.
Ross said she doesn't think any of her fellow Democrats would agree to help Republicans out, but Stam, R-Wake, said he's hopeful some might.