State News

Lawmakers return for veto-override session

Posted August 26, 2008
Updated August 27, 2008

— Safety concerns and the needs of tourism were on the minds of state legislators as they returned to Raleigh Wednesday to consider fighting Gov. Mike Easley's veto of a bill that would ease restrictions on towing boats.

Easley on Monday called for the special session after vetoing House Bill 2167, which would allow boats up to 10 feet wide to be towed without a permit. It also would permit watercraft up to 9.5 feet wide to be towed at night and on weekends.

Supporters argued the bill would help North Carolina boaters and fishing tournaments hampered by state law that permits boats up to 8.5 feet wide to be towed only during daylight hours on weekdays.

Easley cited concerns echoed by the state Highway Patrol that having bigger boats on the road would cause accidents. Easley also said he was disappointed it did not limit the blood-alcohol level for boat towers.

Although the bill passed by wide margins in both chambers, legislative leaders have not decided whether they will vote to overturn Easley's veto, allow the veto to stand or draft a compromise bill.

House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, believes most members in his chamber want an opportunity to consider the legislation again, his spokesman, Bill Holmes, said Tuesday.

"At this point, there is overwhelming support for overriding the veto," Holmes said.

However, Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, speaking Monday from the Democratic National Convention in Denver, said he did not know what his chamber would do if the House voted to override Easley's veto.

Rand noted that he opposed the legislation and said that most of the fishing tournaments that proponents said would be helped by the legislation have already concluded.

"I think the cost is such that we'd be better served to wait until January to do this," Rand said.

It was also unclear how many lawmakers will attend the scheduled Wednesday morning session, with the relatively short notice and some Democrats out of town for their party's national convention.

Some Democrats, including Hackney, booked last-minute flights back from the convention. As of Tuesday, Easley and Rand did not plan to return.

State Republican leaders derided the special session, saying legislators didn't address more important issues before adjourning for the year.

"Democrats are only coming back to Raleigh so they can collect more checks from the boating industry on the campaign trail," Linda Daves, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, said in a statement.

The state's constitution requires North Carolina governors to call lawmakers back to session within 10 days of vetoing legislation. If they do not, the vetoed bill automatically becomes law.

Legislative leaders can overturn Easley's veto if three-fifths of members present in each chamber vote in favor of the bill. The veto will stand if there are not the requisite votes.

Since voters granted North Carolina governors the power to reject legislation in a 1996 constitutional referendum, the General Assembly has never overridden a veto.

Some vetoes have been sustained because lawmakers declined Easley's call to return to Raleigh for a session.

On others, lawmakers have hashed out last-minute compromises, such as with last year's measure originally written to provide economic incentives only to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Lawmakers retooled the plan to include Goodyear's competitors.

Holmes acknowledged that lawmakers could adopt the same approach this year.

"They have brokered agreements on these sorts of things before, and they very may well again," Holmes said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Insensitive Aug 27, 2008

    Looks like The House has handed Easley the first step in a overide. The Senate is next.

  • hotspot Aug 27, 2008

    These are real numbers folks:

    370,291 Registered Boats in NC
    61 Boat Manufacturing Plants with 7,318 Employees
    $650 million in 2006 Sales and Services

  • Insensitive Aug 27, 2008

    Most boats even those that only 96" wide are often sold with trailers that are over 102" wide. This has been going on for years. All of a sudden the state started enforcing a old law that harasses the boating community. The boating community has had enough. We are the lobbyist here.

  • DrJ Aug 27, 2008

    I'm really disappointed in the Highway Patrol - a public body - being so deceitful and deceptive. Without pointing out everything, just look at that pic here on WRAL with a supposed meeting of a school bus and a trailer. Ask yourself, if this is such a problem, then why isn't it a hazard when two school buses pass each other? And which is more likely, a boat meeting a school bus, or a bus meeting a bus?

    Also, boats this wide are already allowed on the road during school bus driving hours! One of the keys would be to allow these boats to travel at night, and on weekends and holidays - when school isn't in session!!

    Afraid of not being able to see an overwide boat at night?! Why doesn't the highway patrol be forthright and acknowledge that this law requires that overwide boats be lighted at their widest point, both boat and trailer?!

    I highly suspect the governor and highway patrol have a political agenda. If "safety" were the real issue, they wouldn't be so dishonest.

  • cary2006 Aug 27, 2008

    wow. is this issue so important that they need to have special session for the over-ride? now this is what is called great lobbying. there sure must be some big "incentive" waiting for the politicians to move so quickly on a issues that affects a small percentage of citizens.

  • hotspot Aug 27, 2008

    If the Governor and SHP had THOROUGHLY investigated this issue, we not be here right now. Using citations against boaters to create revenue is the bottom line.

  • Insensitive Aug 27, 2008

    A special session is required otherwise the veto will not stand and the vetoed bill will become law. Easley clearly does not want this bill to become law so he called them back. The blame here lies with Easley.

  • hotspot Aug 27, 2008


    Yes, it cost money to bring them, but the cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the revenue the state will continue to loose by alienating boaters, the boating industry, and boating tourism.

    If you want to blame someone for the legislators having to come back, blame the man who vetoed the bill, not the boaters that have united to resolve the issue.

  • hotspot Aug 27, 2008

    Link to a real video.

    Click on the link within the post.

  • Insensitive Aug 27, 2008

    The NC Boating Community has spoken. The NC House and Senate has heard the people's voice. Our Governor seems to know more about boats that the people and the statistics show. Now we are faced at paying them to come back to Raleigh to overturn a veto. That is a shame. These boat trailers have been traveling on NC's roads for years without a problem. All of a sudden they have now become a new source of revenue for the state. It would be easier to cut spending instead. This hurts tourism and our reputation as being a boating friendly state. VETO the veto.