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Perdue vetoes NC challenge to health reform

Posted March 5, 2011 2:30 p.m. EST
Updated March 6, 2011 8:07 a.m. EST

— Gov. Bev Perdue on Saturday vetoed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that would have required the state to challenge a key requirement of the year-old national health care overhaul law.

"This is an ill-conceived piece of legislation that's not good for the people of North Carolina. Therefore, I veto it," Perdue said in a statement, after first making an announcement on Twitter.

State Republican leaders denounced the veto as a political maneuver.

"There's no doubt this veto is a political move designed to protect the interests of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Washington Democrats," Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger said in a statement. "The people of North Carolina expect their leaders to change the course of state government, not score political points or protect their political patrons."

House Bill 2 would have exempted North Carolina residents from the requirement under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that they buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. It also would have required the state Attorney General to defend North Carolinians against federal action for not obeying the mandate.

Perdue, who had initially said she wouldn't veto the bill, said that it would be unenforceable because federal law trumps state law and that any action by North Carolina against the federal law would be "extraneous" to a lawsuit already filed by 26 states.

Republicans said that nonpartisan legislative researchers found that the bill would be enforceable.  

"It hurts North Carolinians by forcing them to follow an unconstitutional law," Berger said.

Perdue also cited an opinion from state Attorney General Roy Cooper that language in the bill would appear to prevent the state from collecting a required Medicaid fee, which could lead the federal government to withhold some funding.

Republicans said that legislative researchers found that the bill would not ban health providers from paying the fee.

State lawmakers can override the governor's veto if they can muster a three-fifths majority in the state House of Representatives.

This marked the second time in two weeks that Perdue has vetoed a bill sent to her by the new Republican majority in the General Assembly.

On Feb. 22, the governor vetoed Senate Bill 13, which would have given her some budget-balancing powers at the cost of economic-development funds used to lure business to the state.

North Carolina governors have only had veto power since 1996. Them-Gov. Jim Hunt never exercised it. His successor, Mike Easley, used it nine times over his eight years as governor.

Only one veto has been overridden in state history.