For the first time since his inauguration in January, Gov. Pat McCrory put some significant space between his office and the N.C. General Assembly in his decision to veto two pieces of legislation last week.
The governor offered principled arguments against both bills. Whether his vetoes will survive is a different issue, since both pieces of legislation passed by comfortable margins in the General Assembly. But it’s refreshing to see McCrory stand apart, at last, from a legislature whose whirlwind passage of restrictions on voting procedures, unemployment benefits, Medicare funding and other measures have made North Carolina a national punchline.
McCrory’s first veto flagged a bill that would expand the E-Verify exemption of seasonal workers from 90 days to nine months. E-Verify is a system employers are required to use to determine the residency status of immigrant workers.
By expanding the exemption to that background check to nine months, the legislature practically repealed the E-Verify system. McCrory correctly summed up the ramifications when he noted that the bill would lead to the hiring of undocumented workers for jobs that should be filled by American citizens.
McCrory’s second veto targeted legislation that would require criminal background checks of welfare recipients and allow social workers to have applicants tested for drug use if the workers suspect substance abuse.
No one wants drug abusers on welfare rolls, but testing and background checks would be an enormous, ongoing expense. And as some wags have suggested, shouldn’t state employees – including the governor and legislators – then face the same screening?
No single member of the legislature won a seat based on a statewide election, as McCrory did. It’s good to see the governor remind legislators of the clout behind his office and to exert reasonable checks and balances on legislation passed on Jones Street.
Now that he has exercised that power a couple of times, perhaps he’ll become more comfortable weighing legislation from a statewide perspective. We only wish he had done so earlier.