Perdue's desk piled with bills from GOP lawmakers

Posted June 20, 2011 12:58 p.m. EDT
Updated June 20, 2011 6:30 p.m. EDT

— Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue said Monday she'll closely review more than 200 bills the Republican-led legislature gave her before it left Raleigh over the weekend, even though she's got less time than usual to examine them.

General Assembly staff were expected to present to Perdue on Monday 109 bills approved by lawmakers in the session's closing hours before they went home Saturday. Another 114 were already on her desk.

"They're bundled high priority, medium priority and really low priority," she said as she signed four bills to help people in the military with tuition, voting and health care.

Perdue warned that other bills might not receive a similar positive reception.

"At the end of the day, I'm not going to sign anything I don't feel comfortable with for the people of North Carolina," she said. "Public policy in a democracy should be – must be – debated in a public forum. That's what transparency's about, and I think there is a lack of transparency as we dig into the details of some of the legislation."

There's little doubt Perdue will add to her record total of vetoes for North Carolina's chief executive. She's got seven so far this year, and no other North Carolina governor had used the veto stamp more than twice in a calendar year since voters gave the governor veto power in 1997.

Last week, she made history again by placing a red veto stamp on the two-year budget bill, which became law when Republicans overrode her with the help of a handful of Democrats.

She also vetoed a bill Saturday that would have stripped North Carolina Association of Educators of its ability to have voluntary membership dues deducted directly from teachers' paychecks. The association is a close Perdue political ally. The veto will likely stand since the bill was approved largely along party lines.

Perdue didn't give any hints Monday about what other bills she would likely veto.

"There's several obviously jumping out at me," she said.

Statements from her office and her political philosophy make it very likely she'll veto bills requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot and requiring any woman seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound and wait 24 hours after a counseling session on medical risks. Medical malpractice changes and gun-rights legislation also are awaiting her decisions.

Damon Circosta, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, said he hopes Perdue vetoes the voter ID measure, calling it a voter suppression bill.

"Democracy is not a 95 percent proposition," Circosta said. "There are some people who don't have a photo ID, so we have to make sure that, as we're making these big changes in state government, we don't leave their voices out."

A governor usually has 30 days after the adjournment to consider bills, but the state constitution provides for the 30-day window for the governor only if lawmakers also leave town for at least 30 days. Because the General Assembly returns to work July 13 for a redistricting and election law session, Perdue has only the usual 10 days to sign or veto each pending bill.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said the legislature "sent her a lot of good legislation, and I would hope that she would sign them all. But she's still apparently got that big jar of red ink, and we'll see."

Lawmakers would considered potential veto overrides during the July 13 session.