Editorial: The House stands Pat

  • Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 12:46 a.m.

Although the N.C. House voted Tuesday to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s vetoes of two bills, by taking a stand against the Legislature he regained a bit of tactical ground. He put at least a sliver of ideological separation between himself and a legislature whose conservative agenda sometimes seemed far to the right of the more moderate views McCrory presented as a candidate and as mayor of Charlotte.

But it was just a sliver, and a highly symbolic one at that. The two bills concerned the immigration status of workers and drug-testing welfare recipients. These were not flash-point issues like abortion or voter ID. Despite the governor’s attempt to drum up public support for the vetoes (including Facebook posts), the House votes to override weren’t close. A similar result is expected today, when the Senate gets its turn.

As for the bills themselves:

McCrory vetoed HB 786 because of a provision that expanded an exemption for employers to avoid using the E-Verify system to check the legal status of new workers. Agricultural interests largely supported the bill, contending that expanding the exemption from 90 days to nine months would help hold down costs, avoid burdensome regulations and make it easier to maintain an adequate workforce, especially during their busiest seasons. The bill’s opponents — including some sheriffs — contend it will attract more illegal immigrants into the state. Both sides of the debate raise substantive issues, but the stronger argument lies with the state’s agricultural industry. Growers and other producers say the change would enhance their ability to hire immigrant workers who perform jobs that otherwise would go begging while crops rot in the field. The economic case is more persuasive than the fears raised about its impact on crime or the unemployment rate. The Senate should also vote to override — with the possibility that the changes may be revisited after lawmakers have a chance to study the measure’s impact.

The other bill, which would require drug testing for some welfare recipients, is an intrusive and constitutionally suspect piece of work that addresses a problem for which there’s no real evidence — that is, widespread drug use among those seeking benefits. The governor rightly pointed out some of the bill’s flaws. It potentially will cost taxpayers who’ll have to pick up the tab for drug tests that prove negative, and it represents a form of government intrusiveness that conservatives theoretically oppose. People who are on welfare have already suffered a blow to their pride without being treated like criminal suspects. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the Senate is likely to override this veto also, but it shouldn’t.

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