The longest General Assembly session in 13 years may be over, but Governor Pat McCrory still has some big decisions to make, with two controversial bills on his desk for consideration.
A broad coalition of environmental groups calls one of them, the misnamed Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, possibly the worst environmental bill since McCrory has been in office and that’s saying something, considering the attacks on clean water, air, and land in the last three years.
The legislation, more appropriately called the Polluter Protection Act, is a collection of many individual rollbacks that the Senate stuffed into a one-page House bill with little debate that removes protections for streams, soil, groundwater and coastal areas.
It allows companies to avoid penalties for violating environmental laws if they turn themselves in and hide evidence from communities affected by pollution who turn to the courts for help.
The environmental groups sent a letter to McCrory this week asking him to veto the legislation pointing out that “Nothing in H765 is essential. Much is harmful.”
The letter asks McCrory to veto to the bill and reject its vision for “a dirtier, less healthy North Carolina.”
It seems like the least he could do.
And while he has the veto stamp out, he should also use on it House Bill 318 that passed in the legislative session’s waning days that would punish undocumented immigrants in the state and make it harder for thousands of families to afford enough to eat.
A letter from N.C. Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier asking McCrory to veto the bill points out that it takes authority away from how local communities interact with immigrants and gives local law enforcement agencies less flexibility. McCrory, as a long time mayor, ought to understand that.
And as Glazier wrote to the governor, the bill was passed with disturbing anti-immigrant rhetoric in the debate on the House floor, where bill supporters described North Carolina being “overrun by illegal immigrants.”
The bill also punishes low-income families by banning the state from continuing to apply for waivers from the federal government that allow people in economic distressed parts of the state to receive food stamp benefits.
The bill would result in 100,000 people being denied food assistance next year, regardless of the economic conditions in their communities.
McCrory missed an opportunity to stand up to the General Assembly when he signed an elections bill that not only moves up the primary for legislative and Congressional races to March, a huge advantage for incumbents, but also creates new political slush funds that allow top elected officials, including McCrory himself, to skirt contribution limits.
McCrory railed against special interests and what he called “the culture of corruption” when he was running for office. By signing the elections bill creating the slush funds, he just made that culture worse.
He can partially redeem himself by taking out his veto stamp and rejecting legislation that threatens the environment, demonizes and endangers immigrants and punishes thousands of low-income families.
The session may be over but there’s still time for McCrory to do the right thing, and stand up for a safer, cleaner, and more compassionate North Carolina. We’ll find out shortly if he’s up to it.
Chris Fitzsimon is the Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch.