Updated with text of governor's statement.
The state Senate on Wednesday quickly overrode the governor’s vetoes of a pair of bills, following the same path the House took the day before.
But Gov. Pat McCrory immediately pushed back, saying he will not carry out the new drug-testing of welfare recipients law, and he will consider challenging the new immigration law if it doesn’t withstand legal scrutiny.
McCory’s communications staff released a long written statement late Wednesday morning reiterating his earlier concerns about the two bills. McCrory said the executive branch would not take any action on House Bill 392, the drug-testing bill, until legislators find the money to pay for its implementation across the state. It would allow welfare recipients to be tested if social workers suspect they have been abusing drugs, and in some circumstances be required to get fingerprinted.
On House Bill 786, the immigration bill, McCrory said he will direct the executive branch “to explore all legal and executive authority to ensure the letter and spirit of our nation’s immigration law is followed in this state.” The new law expands the period in which seasonal workers do not have to have their immigration status checked in the federal E-Verify system. The governor says it creates a loophole that industries besides agriculture will abuse.
McCrory elaborated on both bills in comments he made during a state Board of Education meeting in Raleigh after the Senate voted.
Speaking about the immigration legislation, he said, “I still strongly believe this is a flawed bill. In fact, I think it makes it more difficult for North Carolina workers to get jobs. It is my job to follow the law. It is also my job to enforce the law.”
McCrory added: "Some of the manufacturers in towns like High Point worked hard for this bill because they, frankly, want to hire illegal immigrants as opposed to North Carolina workers and paying good wages.”
McCrory’s statement comes just after the Republican leaders of the General Assembly took pains to minimize the political damage the overridden vetoes might cause the Republican governor. These were the first two vetoes issued by the governor, who has been in office for eight months.
After Wednesday’s Senate vote, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger echoed House Speaker Thom Tillis’ remarks from Tuesday downplaying the disagreement.
Berger noted that there was only a significant difference of opinion on three bills – the two bills vetoed and a bill prohibiting Islamic law in family court that the governor let become law without his signature – out of hundreds of pieces of legislation sent him this year.
“I think that’s a remarkable achievement for a group of legislators and a sitting governor to have that much consensus on major legislation,” Berger said.
But that veneer of congeniality crumbled late Wednesday morning with the governor’s forceful reaction.
McCrory’s statement also addressed other issues, and he particularly struck out at the General Assembly over education policy.
“One part of our culture that did not change was passing some flawed legislation during the last hours of session with little debate, understanding or transparency,” McCrory said.
Still, the governor added, he is optimistic that bipartisan cooperation will permit future necessary changes in state law.
Here's the governor's entire statement:
It was an historic year with new policies that will positively impact North Carolina by rebuilding a struggling economy and fixing a broken, and often inefficient, state government. New policies include: tax and regulatory reforms, transportation, personnel, commerce, voter ID, and a first step toward Medicaid reform. All these initiatives challenged the status quo and make a positive difference in the future.
One part of our culture that did not change was passing some flawed legislation during the last hours of session with little debate, understanding or transparency. Too much education policy was slipped into the budget bill causing serious concerns especially from our teachers and educators. Executive branch concerns over long-term operational costs were ignored by passing bills with good intentions but unintended consequences, and overriding vetoes on drug testing and immigration.
House bill 786 triples the E-Verify seasonal worker exemption from 90 days to nearly nine months and has created a loophole that could cost legal North Carolinians jobs. This measure changes the law’s focus from exempting “temporary seasonal employees” to help the state’s farming industry to exempting a category of employees for any industry, regardless of the season or the needs. Thus, I will direct the executive branch to explore all legal and executive authority to ensure the letter and spirit of our nation’s immigration law is followed in this state
Based upon the lawmakers’ vote on drug testing, the executive branch will not take any action on the new law’s implementation until sufficient funds with this unfunded mandate are provided, not only for the Department of Health and Human Services, but also the funding for consistent application across all 100 counties.
I believe the future is bright for our state with the bipartisan teamwork that kick started much needed reforms. Despite the critics and special interests who want to retain the failed policies of the past, we were strong in our resolve to follow through on the promises we made to voters.
The resolve for systematic change must continue so we can compete to retain and grow much needed jobs for today and the future. The solutions will be complex and at times controversial to many well established interest groups, but we have no choice other than to move forward even under constrained budgets and a tough political environment. Major initiatives must be made with Medicaid, mental health, energy and education if we are to continue our progress.
In fact, today I urged the State Board of Education to take immediate action. We have found the necessary funds through my budget office to ensure that over 3,000 teachers currently pursuing their master's degrees will receive a salary increase when they graduate, an investment of over $10 million. I also signed an executive order to create the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Council, which will give a voice to a diverse group of teachers from across the state. We continue to follow through on testing relief for teachers by reducing the number of standardized tests, creating a local control option for our local education systems to innovate. This way our teachers can do what they do best…teach our students. And finally, I continue my resolve and support for raises tied to the creation of a new compensation system for our teachers.
I look forward to working with the General Assembly in the short session to continue to improve our economy, education system and the efficiency of state government. More than anything, I look forward to visiting neighborhoods, towns and cities, plus businesses across our state to gain insight and solutions from the best of the best in our great state.