Raleigh, N.C. — Facing a midnight deadline to handle all pending legislation, Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed four bills on Thursday, signed three others into law and allowed four more to become law without her signature.
Perdue has vetoed 15 bills this session, and lawmakers are expected to take up override votes on some of them when they reconvene next month.
"Not so long ago, Gov. Perdue claimed to champion several of the issues she rejected," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. "An indecisive, politically-desperate politician trying to cater to her base, she now stands squarely with fringe environmental groups and liberal special interests in opposing the job-creating sector of North Carolina’s economy.”
In her first veto of the day, the governor said giving businesses more latitude to deny jobless benefits to former workers could force firms' unemployment taxes to skyrocket.
Senate Bill 532 also would have shifted the state Employment Security Commission into the Department of Commerce, so Perdue signed an executive order to carry that out.
The U.S. Department of Labor warned state officials last week that the legislation didn't meet several guidelines for federal employment laws:
- It would have given businesses 30 days to protest an unemployment claim, which federal officials said is too long a delay.
- It would have disqualified people from jobless benefits if they had been convicted of a violent crime or an offense involving sex or drugs or if they had received three or more reprimands before being terminated. Officials said people can be disqualified only if misconduct is connected to their work, and a criminal conviction or a series of reprimands doesn't always meet that standard.
- It would have allowed workers and businesses to stipulate to issues in an appeal over benefits, which federal officials said would circumvent the normal hearing process.
Because of the discrepancies, Labor officials told ESC Chairwoman Lynn Holmes, passage of the legislation would increase the federal unemployment taxes paid by North Carolina firms from 0.8 percent to 6.2 percent because they would lose credit for paying state unemployment taxes. Also, the state could lose federal grants for its employment service programs.
“This bill will raise unemployment taxes on various businesses of all shapes and sizes across the state. It will also greatly increase the amount of time a company has to respond to an unemployment claim, which violates federal policy and could delay benefits for people who are entitled to receive them,” Perdue said in a statement. “Finally, this bill will likely cost North Carolina millions of federal dollars that unemployed people and their families need so desperately.”
House Speaker Thom Tillis called Perdue's reasons for vetoing the bill "fake and plastic," noting that she previously supported the concept behind the legislation.
"This bill actually prevents unemployment benefits from being paid to employees who steal money from their employers. For that reason and many others, the bill passed the House with 104 votes – an overwhelming bipartisan majority," Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in a statement.
The first of the three dealt with Medicaid and health care providers, and Perdue said she supports most of the bill. One section of the measure would violate federal law and goes against the North Carolina constitution, she said, by taking final authority away from the Department of Health and Human Services and giving it to the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Perdue likewise applauded the regulatory reforms outlined in Senate Bill 781 – they would have prohibited the state from making environmental rules tougher than the federal government calls for – but said giving administrative law judges the final say on issues would be unconstitutional.
"While I wholeheartedly support the General Assembly’s desire to pass laws aimed at reforming our bureaucracy, those laws have to be balanced and meet constitutional standards. Senate Bill 781 fails this test," she said in a statement.
Berger, R-Rockingham, called the bill a common-sense approach to eliminate "burdensome and confusing regulations" that create uncertainty for businesses.
"We will keep fighting to reform the bloated bureaucracy Gov. Perdue helped create,” he said.
The final vetoed bill called for a regional effort to explore offshore oil drilling and would have allowed fracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas, in North Carolina. Perdue said it infringed on her gubernatorial powers, and she issued executive orders creating a task force to study wind energy and expanding her scientific advisory board studying energy production in the state.
"I am completely committed to North Carolina's energy policy of developing jobs that foster America's energy independence," she said in a statement. "I know it is critical that we plan and prepare for any eventual federal approval to move forward. We cannot wait until we have authorization to get ready, we must do that now."
Perdue signed into law technical corrections for the 2011-12 state budget, a measure allowing a variety of specialized license plates, including a controversial Choose Life plate, and legislation outlining how the Department of Revenue can tax out-of-state corporations.
She took no action on bills to limit forced annexations by North Carolina cities and towns, loosen environmental regulations, provide tax credits to families who choose to educate their disabled children at home or in a private school and adjust the reporting requirements for lobbyists. All four automatically become law.