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NC General Assembly Overrides McCrory's Vetoes

5:39 PM, Sep 4, 2013   |    comments
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File photo: N.C. legislative building. Courtesy WRAL.

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina Senate decided Wednesday morning to override governor McCrory's two vetoes, thereby making two bills become laws.

The House overrode those vetoes Tuesday evening, therefore sending two of the session's controversial bills to the Senate.

CBS affiliate WRAL in Raleigh reports there was little debate on both bills, and no Senators spoke against the overrides.

One of the measures will ease requirements for employers who must abide by federal rules and verify their employees' citizenship or legalization status within three months.  This law will expand that time frame to nine months, thereby making it easier for some employers--like farmers--to hire seasonal workers.

The other requires drug testing and criminal background checks for certain welfare program applicants. The bill will require drug testing of some applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Neeedy Families (TANF) Work First program--a cash assistance program.  It also will require a background check for food stamp applicants, so as to prevent people who are fleeing from custody or violating parole from getting welfare benefits.'

After the overrides of his vetoes, the governor released a statement, which reads in part, "Based upon the lawmakers' vote on drug testing, the executive branch will not take any action on the new law's implementation until sufficient funds with this unfunded mandate are provided, not only for the Department of Health and Human Services, but also the funding for consistent application across all 100 counties."

Proponents say this law will prevent substance abusers and criminals from getting benefits and from using them for unlawful purposes. 

Opponents say mandating drug tests or background checks could unfairly label certain people as criminals or deter some from even applying for welfare services.

News 2 spoke with a group of people standing outside of the Guilford County Department of Social Services offices Tuesday.  One man said requiring drug tests and background checks for welfare services is "an infringement on rights...What about people's families?"

According to local DSS offices, there are more than 46,000 families in Guilford County who use EBT cards--also known as food stamps.  There are more than 26,000 families in Forsyth County, 12,000 in Alamance and Randolph Counties and 9,000 in Rockingham County.

The Guilford County Department of Social Services' director Robert Williams said he cannot yet comment on the potential law's intended impact, until the office receives policy direction from the state.  He referenced similar laws in Florida, which have been proven costly. 

Guilford County DSS assistant director Steve Hayes explained the office will receive, from the state, a letter with policy guidelines.  He said though the law generally is effective immediately, the office needs to wait for these directions.  He explained DSS offices have several questions that have not yet been answered--who can administer the drug test, who receives the test and how offices objectively can administer the test with certain criteria.

The ACLU of North Carolina has issued a statement about the override of the veto.  From the organization's policy director Sarah Preston, it reads in part, "It's very disappointing that the legislature put so much effort into passing this cruel and constitutionally suspect bill.  H.B. 392 does nothing to help those who test positive for drug use to get treatment, but it does allow the government to conduct costly, unnecessary and unreasonably intrusive searches of North Carolinians who seek public assistance to care for their families."

DSS offices around the Triad have been dealing with issues with a new statewide computer system, which has been delaying the process by which many people across the Triad can get their EBT cards re-certified.

Hayes said the Guilford DSS offices still are experiencing some problems with the systems, but for the most part, those problems are being sorted out.  He said now, it is a matter of "playing catch up" on finding and processing the cases that were delayed.

Thom Little, a political expert with UNCG stopped by WFMY News 2 studio. He discussed with WFMY News 2's Frank Mickens about the power the lawmakers hold in their hands even over Gov. McCrory.


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