@NCCapitol

NC Senate overrides six vetoes in less than hour

Posted July 13, 2011 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2011 6:53 p.m. EDT

— Less than an hour after reconvening its session Wednesday, the state Senate had voted to override six vetoes issues last month by Gov. Beverly Perdue.

The legislature resumed its annual session at midday Wednesday after nearly a month away from Raleigh. Its primary goal is to redraw district lines for their own seats and for the U.S. House by July 28.

Senators squeezed in the override votes, knowing the Republican majority had enough votes to carry each with little debate.

The first came on legislation to limit certain damages for negligence victims in medical malpractice cases.

The bill would limit awards for malpractice victims to $500,000 for things such as pain, suffering and emotional distress. Perdue is concerned because the law sets a high standard to exempt victims of catastrophic injury or death from the limit.

Republicans pushing the legislation say the measure would curtail medical malpractice insurance premiums and make North Carolina an attractive place for doctors to relocate.

Other overrides quickly followed, including bills that would restrict environmental regulations, change state laws on unemployment benefits, move North Carolina toward offshore drilling for oil and natural gas and make technical adjustments to Medicaid regulations.

“We will not let the governor stand in the way of job creation and economic recovery,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. “Now is not the time to play games with bills that create new energy and medical jobs and get government off the private sector’s back.”

Perdue said in a statement that the Senate "made the wrong choices for North Carolina six times over." She said she hopes the House would make minor changes to some of the bills so that she could sign them.

The House has scheduled July 25 override votes on the six measures and on other bills that Perdue vetoed, including those requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls and implementing a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

“The Senate said that it would take up the Senate bills that have been vetoed and do its overrides early because, as you know, the Senate has the votes to do its overrides. It’s in the House where the votes are questionable,” said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake County.

Voting rights groups held a morning rally opposing the voter ID bill.

"It does look like the Republicans are putting through a bunch of measures that will help them in a partisan way win the next election and the next election and the next election," said Bob Hall, executive director of political watchdog group Democracy North Carolina. "That's not the way to treat voters."

Meanwhile, groups supporting the overrides held their own rally at the same time, sporting shirts that had a red veto stamp over Perdue's picture.

"I think the governor needs to be held to account for vetoing bills that were destined to create jobs, get government out of the way (and) cut red tape and that passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities," said Dallas Woodhouse or Americans for Prosperity.

The offshore drilling bill calls for Perdue to enter an agreement with other governors to lobby the federal government for energy exploration. Perdue said that provision is unconstitutional.

Environmentalists oppose the bill because they say it would discourage green energy alternatives.

Environmental groups also lobbied against the regulations bill, saying it would complicate rule-making and discourage regulations that preserve clean air and water.

The bill also would give special judges more authority to resolve disagreements between government departments and citizens. Perdue said the bill appeared unconstitutional because executive agencies and commissions could no longer reject or modify rulings of administrative law judges.

Several override votes in the Senate were bipartisan, but others fell along party lines, including the vote to re-approve a measure that would block teachers from paying dues to the North Carolina Association of Educators through payroll deductions.

The deductions represent hundreds of thousands of dollars to the association that Perdue counts among her top allies. She has called the measure an unfair attack on teachers.