N.C. House to meet in special session

by Michelle Saxton
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

North Carolina House members planned to meet the day after Labor Day for a special session to address Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of two bills, but were still deciding if they will take action at that time.

Lawmakers were expected to follow McCrory’s proclamation to call the special session at noon Tuesday, Sept. 3, immediately adjourn, and then possibly recess to reconvene later that day to allow post-holiday travel time.

Republicans planned to meet that afternoon for discussions, Rep. Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover, said in a Tuesday, Aug. 27, phone interview. Lawmakers may choose to address one or both vetoes or neither, Davis said.

Earlier in August McCrory vetoed House Bill 786 regarding immigration laws and House Bill 392 regarding selective drug testing for Work First applicants suspected of using illegal substances. He released the special session proclamation Aug. 22.

McCrory said the immigration bill would triple a seasonal worker exemption from 90 days to about nine months in the federal E-Verify system employers use to check workers’ legal status, and he argued the drug testing bill lacked adequate funding and could lead to an inconsistent application of drug tests. 

Davis said he would wait until Republicans talk before making a decision on how to address the vetoes. However, Davis said, based on his earlier bill votes, he would be inclined to override the governor’s veto of the drug testing bill and support the veto of the immigration bill. 

“I don’t want to use taxpayer money to support someone’s drug habit,” Davis said.

The immigration bill was meant to help farmers needing laborers, but the legislation would not limit the E-Verify expansion to farm workers, Davis said. 

“It’s too far-reaching to allow anybody to come in this state and work for up to nine months at any job without having any background check whatsoever to see if they’re here legally,” Davis said, adding he was concerned that could lead to jobs being taken from legal workers in North Carolina.

Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover and Brunswick, said in an Aug. 27 text message she would vote to sustain the governor’s veto of the drug testing for public assistance bill and to override his veto of the immigration bill — in their current forms. 

“The immigration bill is good for small businesses, particularly in the rural parts of our state,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton raised concerns about the drug testing bill, citing reports that Florida tried it and most people passed the test with the state losing money.

“The drug testing bill is unconstitutional and has been overturned in every state where it has been tried,” Hamilton said. “It amounts to illegal search and seizure.” 

Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, could not immediately be reached for comment. During the regular session Catlin voted for the drug testing bill and against the immigration bill.

Since both bills originated in the House, the House will take action before the Senate. A veto override would require support from three-fifths of the House’s 120 members present, and then three-fifths of the Senate’s 50 members present for the bill to become law.

McCrory has said the General Assembly’s best option is to not convene, thus saving tax dollars and ensuring his vetoes are sustained. 

A full session involving all 170 state legislators and full staff may cost taxpayers about $50,000 a day, Jordan Shaw, spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said Monday, Aug. 26.

McCrory issued the special session proclamation because by state law the governor must reconvene the General Assembly if bills are vetoed after adjournment of the regular session — which for this year was July 26 — or the vetoes are automatically overridden.

Whether the House reconvenes later Sept. 3 or the next day, members were expected to finish by sundown Sept. 4 in observance of the Jewish Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah which begins Sept. 5.

Previous special sessions have included some during the last biennial session to address redistricting, Shaw said.


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