RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers postponed decisions Thursday on whether to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes, but they stayed around the Legislative Building to vote on sending him several more bills held up from earlier this summer.
And faced with a federal court order this week to redraw General Assembly district maps by Sept. 1, Republican legislators reworked their schedule for the rest of the year to reconvene in two weeks to start approving new boundaries.
The GOP-controlled legislature first met Thursday morning for its constitutionally-mandated duty of receiving the four vetoes the Democratic governor issued from the 100-plus approved bills that legislators left behind when they left town June 30. The topics on the vetoed bills include legal notices in newspapers, casino nights and spraying liquids collected under landfills.
But legislators were under no obligation to vote immediately on overrides. With about 20 of the 169 current lawmakers absent from Raleigh, Speaker Tim Moore sent those vetoed bills — all originating in the House — to a committee, where they’re expected to emerge in the next session later this month. Within 45 minutes, the session called by Cooper was over.
The legislators, however, already had called their own session for later Thursday and gave final approval to a half-dozen wide-ranging bills on regulatory, environmental and tax matters. The House and Senate had passed competing measures on these topics before the year’s annual work session ended but the chambers had failed to negotiate their differences until now.
“These were things that were on the cusp of being passed at the end of the regular session and this additional time that we’ve had off has given an opportunity for the stakeholders to sit down,” Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, told reporters. “We wanted to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and actually do some work and we’ve actually passed … some pretty weighty bills.”
The bills that now go to Cooper include a provision allowing income tax filers to remit a part of their refunds to go toward breast and cervical cancer screening for low-income women. Despite some opposition, lawmakers approved a regulatory overhaul measure containing language that would allow local landfills with lengthy state permits to continue to take trash even if their local permits expire.
Another approved measure in part would let legislative leaders appoint two members of the North Carolina Medical Board, taking that appointment power away from Cooper. GOP lawmakers and the new governor have been fighting in court over recent laws that erode his powers.
The legislature didn’t adjourn until Thursday evening, when GOP leaders gave up in a logjam over another environmental measure that didn’t get a vote. And House Democrats opposed strongly a bill that would give the legislature the final say on blocking any state agency rule that would cost those regulated by it $10 million over five years. A final House vote on the measure got delayed.
“We’ll deal with those at the end of the month in addition to redistricting,” Senate leader Phil Berger said of the unfinished business. “I feel like our time here was worthwhile.”
GOP leaders decided that the General Assembly would next convene Aug. 18 — not Sept. 6 as planned earlier — to comply with Monday’s order from three federal judges that new House and Senate district boundaries be approved by Sept. 1. Veto overrides will be considered during the session, too.
Federal courts have thrown out 28 General Assembly districts, declaring them illegal gerrymanders due to racial bias. The first votes on redrawn maps probably won’t occur until Aug. 24, redistricting leaders told colleagues. House and Senate redistricting committee members scheduled a meeting Friday to talk public comment about what the criteria should be in drawing the maps.