RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory signed the remaining bills on his desk Friday from the General Assembly’s recent session except for one he plans to let become law without his signature. Two others that he vetoed last week will bring lawmakers back to Raleigh early next month.
McCrory signed 33 of the 34 bills he hadn’t acted upon that lawmakers had left for him when they went home July 26. They include a wide-ranging regulatory overhaul, a three-year delay on implementing pollution-control rules for drinking-water source Jordan Lake in the Piedmont and legislation that keeps judicial disciplinary activities secret for a longer period.
But he won’t sign a bill that prohibits judges from applying foreign laws in domestic and child custody cases when it would violate someone’s constitutional rights. That bill will become law after Sunday night, when a 30-day window for the governor to consider the legislation expires. The bill’s sponsors have said the measure is designed in part to address Islamic Sharia law.
In an interview with The Associated Press, McCrory said the measure doesn’t do anything. “I didn’t think it was worth the time to pass, nor do I think it’s worth the time to have someone come back and vote on it again,” he said.
McCrory also signed bills giving the state treasurer more flexibility to invest public employee pension funds in alternative investments, and giving the House speaker and Senate leader the ability to intervene in a judicial proceeding challenging state law or the constitution.
Some Republicans are worried that Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, may not fully defend in court legislation passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that he may not agree with. Cooper, who has spoken out against the elections overhaul now being challenged in court, has said he will fulfill his obligation and that staff attorneys are defending vigorously the laws in court.
“I encourage the General Assembly not to use this law unless it is absolutely necessary,” McCrory said in a statement. “There should be mutual understanding and cooperation among the General Assembly, the attorney general and the governor.”
McCrory said the “Regulatory Reform Act of 2013” he signed into law will cut burdensome rules for businesses and government red tape and encourage job creation, especially by small businesses. The anchor of the law is a new process by which state officials review rules to carry out environmental, health and labor laws, among others, and repeal them if they are found unnecessary.
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, praised the passage of a measure that he said “continues to eliminate the needless, duplicative and confusing regulations that hamstring our job-creators and our economy.”
The measure also requires all hotels to install carbon monoxide detectors in each room, following three poisoning deaths in the same Boone motel room this year.
McCrory signed two executive orders to address concerns he had with the regulatory bill on clear-cutting around billboards and on garbage trucks that could leak liquid waste.
Environmental groups said they were disappointed with provisions in the bill about rules for companies complying with groundwater quality standards. Another bars local governments from enacting environmental rules that are tougher than state law until October 2014 while a study examines the issue.
“North Carolinians highly value clean water and property rights, but provisions in this new law (shortchange) the public on both counts,” state Sierra Club director Molly Diggins said.
The Republican governor also signed a law that would prevent the state Judicial Standards Commission from issuing public rebukes for disciplined judges, shifting the authority to the state Supreme Court, based on a recommendation by the panel.
The commission currently is allowed to issue a written public reprimand when a violation of the state’s judicial code is considered minor. Otherwise, the commission can recommend to the Supreme Court that a judge be censured, suspended, or removed from office for misconduct.
The measure would bar the commission from making public the charges against a judge, and disciplinary hearings and its recommendations to the court would be private unless the Supreme Court ultimately rebukes or punishes the judge.
While McCrory told the AP he’d like to see public disclosure provisions revisited next spring by the legislature, he said he signed the bill because “the potential for political abuse for a frivolous complaint toward a judge” under the previous system was very high. The bill passed both chambers even after it was initially rejected by the Senate.
The General Assembly will return Sept. 3 to consider whether to override bills McCrory vetoed that required drug tests for some welfare applicants and expanded the exception for employers from using the federal E-Verify system for temporary workers.
McCrory has been lobbying legislators and the public to sustain his vetoes, the first of his gubernatorial term. Republican legislators say they have the votes to override him on both. He said he doesn’t know what the outcome will be but dismissed whether he could have vetoed other legislation with more success.
“I don’t veto for political reasons,” he said. “I veto for the purpose of good government and good policy, and to educate the public.”