House overrides three Perdue vetoes, more possible

Posted July 25, 2011 3:15 p.m. EDT
Updated July 25, 2011 9:37 p.m. EDT

— The House on Monday joined the Senate in overriding three of Gov. Beverly Perdue's record 15 vetoes.

The moves mean bills capping some jury awards in medical malpractice cases, making it tougher to implement environmental restrictions and changing the appeals process in the state Medicaid program now become law.

The House is expected to take up as many as six other vetoed bills this week, including controversial measures like requiring voters to present photo identification before being allowed to cast their ballots and requiring women seeking abortions to first receive counseling and then wait 24 hours.

"There's a couple (where) we're just trying to make sure we have the numbers right," House Speaker Thom Tillis said.

Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said he's "guardedly optimistic" on override votes for the vetoes on abortion restrictions and on a bill that would allow more exploration for oil and natural gas in North Carolina and off the state's coast.

An override vote that fails to get a three-fifths majority means the legislation dies until after the 2012 elections.

Still, Republicans appear ready to lose some votes to stake out a position for next year's campaigns.

The Senate voted two weeks ago to override six vetoes, but House Republicans don't have enough votes for a three-fifths margin and must convince at least four Democrats to join them to succeed on any override.

Rep. Dewey Hill, D-Columbus, said Republicans have his support on several bills, including the abortion restrictions.

"I think some of our (Democratic) caucus sometimes, well, you know, if the governor wants it, we should do it," Hill said. "I think we ought to do what our (constituents) ask us to do."

He said another Democratic lawmaker, whom he declined to name, planned to vote for an override on another bill unless the North Carolina Association of Educators apologized for a negative ad. The legislation would prevent the group from collecting dues from teachers through payroll deductions.

"He said, if the teachers union would come back and apologize for all the bad press they gave against him, he would join (NCAE). They did some pretty bad ads,” Hill said.

The malpractice override passed by a 74-42 margin, while regulatory reform passed 76-42 and the Medicaid override passed 74-41.

Perdue said she vetoed the latter two bills because provisions in them would violate federal law or North Carolina's constitution. She called the legislation "bull-headed."

"If the Republican leadership is truly concerned about our business community, they should work with me to achieve balanced and meaningful reform," she said in a statement. "(The override votes) will only lead to unnecessary lawsuits and wasted opportunities.”

Tillis said, however, that the Medicaid reforms bring North Carolina in line with federal requirements and would cut down on fraud and abuse.

House Minority Leader Joe Hackney said Perdue's concerns with the bills could be addressed if Republicans were willing to compromise.

"It would be helpful if the Republican majority would put aside their distaste for the governor for a moment and fix those problems," said Hackney, D-Orange.