The 'Veto Garage'

Lawmakers could try to override some of Perdue's vetoes in July, thanks to a different way of handling vetoed bills this year. What's parked in the "veto garage?"

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Laura Leslie

When lawmakers come back for their special session July 13th, redistricting probably won’t be the only issue on the calendar.

Under the rules for the special session laid out in the adjournment resolution, S784, legislators can consider bills on several topics, including appointments, election laws, and conference reports they didn’t finish when they left earlier this month.

They can also try to override vetoes. 

In past years, when a governor has vetoed a bill, legislators have taken whatever action they were going to take within about 10 days, whether they were in session at the time of the veto or had to come back into town to respond to it.

But back in March, after the failed override vote and subsequent resurrection of H2, the federal health care reform repeal bill, House Speaker Thom Tillis announced his caucus would handle vetoes differently from that day on.

Instead of trying to override every veto as it came in, Tillis said, he would “park” them in committees for override votes in the future. He’s called it the “veto garage.”

“Let me make it very clear: the governor needs to understand that every bill that gets vetoed will remain active. And we will take a vote when we can potentially change votes or at the appropriate time,” Tillis told reporters. "None of them will be allowed to fail. All of them will be reconsidered…and all of them will be therefore eligible for a vote any day of session for as long as we’re here.” 

This appears to be legal – there’s no window in state law in which override votes have to occur. But Tillis conceded it’s definitely a different approach.

“Vetoes are new,” he explained. “We’ve never had the dynamic of democrats at one end [of Jones St.] and Republicans at the other.” (Watch the full March 10th press conference above.)

Despite his warning to Democrats that overrides could come up at any time (“I think what it says is that you better show up for work,” he said), the only other one in the House this past session was the successful budget override. 

But with 10 vetoes on hold, and plenty of available time during the special session, it’s reasonable to expect Tillis may consider doing a little garage clean-up soon. 

Garage inventory

Several bills now parked in the “veto garage” were time-sensitive measures that have expired, and others were addressed by compromise bills. But a couple might still have legs, including H2, the health care reform rollback and S727, a bill to ban teachers’ group NCAE from collecting dues through state payroll deductions.

Since session ended, Perdue has added three more high-profile vetoes to the inventory: H351 Voter ID, H854 Abortion restrictions, and S33 Medical Malpractice Reform. She’s expected to add a couple more by the end of the day Thursday.

Legislative Bill Drafting was kind enough to compile a list of all bills ever vetoed in NC and what happened to them. That's here.
Mapping an override

If Tillis should decide to take one or two (or more) out for a spin next month, Redistricting would be a rich backdrop for it.

The approval of the new maps is not a three-fifths vote – it’s a simple majority, which means Republicans probably won’t need Democrats’ votes in either chamber. It’s also not subject to veto by Perdue. So Democrats will find themselves at the mercy of their friends across the aisle.

The House GOP only needs four Democrats to override a veto. And for some Dems who might already be inclined to vote with the GOP on issues like abortion or Voter ID, the potential of a favorable map “correction” might be enough of a nudge to support an override.

Tillis himself seemed to be thinking along the same lines back in March. “You need to go back and take a look at the portfolio of vetoes,” he said, “and look at each one, and say, ‘How could people who may support this veto now be influenced not to later, based on other factors?’ There could be a variety of reasons.”

House and Senate Republicans are reportedly already working to secure votes for an override of the abortion bill, H854, next month.  


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