Gov. Pat McCrory certainly must have shocked his fellow Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly last week when he announced that he wouldn’t implement one of the bills passed by lawmakers because they didn’t provide enough money for him to do so.
He made the announcement about an hour after the N.C. Senate joined the N.C. House in quickly and overwhelmingly overriding his veto of the bill requiring drug-testing for certain welfare recipients.
Lawmakers appropriated $145,000 in the state budget to implement the drug-testing law. But the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says the law will require $300,000 more to make computer changes, not including the expenses that will have to be covered by all 100 counties.
McCrory is on uncertain if not shaky ground. Governors have a constitutional duty to enforce the laws enacted by the legislature. And McCrory signed the budget bill that contained the funding for implementation of the drug-testing measure.
Since the drug-testing law doesn’t go into effect until next summer, its cost doesn’t have to be covered by the current fiscal year’s budget. Lawmakers say there is money in the current budget the executive branch can tap to prepare for the law’s implementation – but if that is indeed the case, that will do nothing to help county social services departments pay the costs they will incur in implementing the program.
McCrory also correctly pointed out that the law is likely to be challenged in the courts. Giving social workers the power to arbitrarily drug-test welfare recipients if they suspect they have been using drugs does raise some problematic legal issues, and lawsuits have been filed against similar laws in other states.
It will be interesting to see how the Republican governor and the GOP-controlled legislature figure out how to free themselves from this murky and convoluted situation over a dubious law.