State News

State lawmakers will try to override Easley veto

Posted August 25, 2008 1:43 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2008 5:55 p.m. EDT

— State lawmakers will return to Raleigh Wednesday to try to override the governor's veto on a bill that would relax boat-towing restrictions for North Carolina motorists.

Earlier this month, Gov. Mike Easley vetoed House Bill 2167, which would have allowed drivers to pull boats up to 10 feet wide on any day of the week without first obtaining a special permit. Motorists also would have been allowed to tow watercraft up to 9.5 feet wide at night.

State law allows boats up to 8.5 feet wide to be towed only during daylight hours on weekdays.

In pushing for the legislation this summer, lawmakers had said the current law jeopardized the state's ability to host competitive fishing tournaments and severely limited North Carolina boaters' ability to take weekend trips.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol, however, says the changes proposed in the legislation would jeopardize safety on the state's roads and highways, especially at night, when visibility is limited.

"If this bill becomes law, allowing these overwidth boats to travel on our highways and roads at night, someone's husband, someone's wife, someone's child will be killed, and the governor and I don't want to be a part of that," Bryan Beatty, secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said last week.

"Gov. Easley's formeost priority is safety on our highways," his spokesman, Seth Effron, said in a statement Monday afternoon.

Approximately 26,000 miles of the state's roads are two-lanes on which each lane is 9.5 feet or less wide. Another 29,000 miles have lanes 10.5 feet or less.

To revive the measure, three-fifths of the House and Senate members present in each chamber would need to vote for the measure.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously. The House approved it 108-5.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, has challenged Easley's claims that the measure is unsafe, saying that the wider boats would be resting on the same-size trailers and that an extra 5 or 6 inches on each side would not jeopardize motorists' safety.

Under state law, whenever a bill is vetoed while the General Assembly is out of session, the governor must call a special session to give lawmakers the option of overriding the move. Legislators can choose not to return to special session if there is no support for an override.

Bill Holmes, a spokesman for House Speaker Joe Hackney, said most House lawmakers have said they want to override Easley's veto.

House Bill 2167 is the ninth bill Easley has vetoed during his eight years in office. None of the previous eight was overridden.