Senate overrides a pair of Cooper vetoes

Posted August 30, 2017 7:51 p.m. EDT
Updated August 30, 2017 9:35 p.m. EDT

This is the sign in front of the North Carolina legislative building.

— The General Assembly overrode two more of Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes Wednesday night as the state Senate voted to back the measures on a pair of party-line votes.

The Republican majority in the House had already mustered the three-fifths vote needed to override Cooper's vetoes on House Bill 140, which consumer advocates flagged as an enabler for predatory lenders, and on House Bill 770. Until Wednesday night, the Senate, where Republicans also hold a veto-proof majority, had delayed action on these bills.

Both Senate votes Wednesday were 30-9 and came at the tail end of a day of back-and-forth negotiations between the House and the Senate, much of which focused on an environmental regulatory reform bill the Republican leadership eventually came to agreement on.

Democrats supported House Bill 140 when it first passed the General Assembly earlier this year but sided with the governor after consumer groups laid out concerns with the legislation, which expands lenders' ability to sell borrowers credit property insurance to cover loan costs when the borrowers can't pay.

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, ticked off a couple examples of high-fee loans during brief debate on the bill Wednesday, saying the new provision would contribute to the cycle of debt and prey "on our working-class and middle-class families."

Supporters pitched the change as a needed updated for a 40-year-old set of regulations, and they stressed that credit insurance is an optional purchase.

House Bill 770 deals with several sections of state code, but the controversy arose from language that will allow an employee at the state Industrial Commission, who's also a former general counsel for the state Republican Party, to draw a second state paycheck from the state's Property Tax Commission despite rules against salary double-dipping.

Bill Peaslee has been moonlighting at the Property Tax Commission, saying he takes time off from his regular job to sit in on commission hearings. He was paid for this time under former Gov. Pat McCrory, but Cooper's administration stopped the payments. The veto override makes the money flow again, and legislative supporters said it's only fair to pay Peaslee for his work.

"These bills have the wrong priorities for our state," Ford Porter, a spokesman for Cooper, said in a statement. "House Bill 140 allows predatory and high-risk insurance policies that unfairly target low-income North Carolinians, while House Bill 770 includes unconstitutional power grabs and a carve-out intended to financially benefit a single state employee. Working families expect their leaders to represent all North Carolinians, not just the well connected."