Legislative Update provided by Smith Anderson


After mounting a weeklong publicity campaign against the N.C. General Assembly’s $19.7 billion state budget for 2011-2012, Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed it Sunday with a big red-ink stamp – the first gubernatorial veto of a budget in North Carolina history.  “I will not put my name on a plan that so blatantly ignores the values of North Carolina’s people,” Perdue, a Democrat, said when she vetoed the budget.  “I cannot support a budget that sends the message that North Carolina is moving backwards, when we have always been a state that led the nation.  The General Assembly may be satisfied with a state in reverse, but I am not.  Therefore, I veto this bill.”

The Republican-controlled legislature quickly responded with another historic first in North Carolina, overriding Gov. Perdue’s budget veto.  A House vote early Wednesday was 73-46, with five conservative Democrats joining all House Republicans to override the governor’s veto.  The Senate vote to override was 31-19, along party lines.  “Final passage of this bipartisan budget signals a new, more responsible era in North Carolina state government – one in which legislators spend tax dollars wisely, fuel job creation in the private sector, and refuse to settle for average results in education,” Senate leader Phil Berger said.  “Despite the governor’s frantic media campaign, apocalyptic rhetoric, and creative accounting, the facts are clear: our $19.7 billion budget will do more for public classrooms and help the economy create more jobs than her own proposal.  On this historic day, the will of the voters and the representatives they elected prevailed over the governor’s desperate attempts to defend the status quo.”


A scaled-back tort reform bill won final legislative approval Thursday.  An early version of House Bill 542 would have given unprecedented protection for any manufacturer against product liability lawsuits so long as some government entity had approved their product.  That was narrowed to blanket protection just for FDA-approved drugs, but the Senate removed that section entirely.  The Senate also added what sponsors describe as a fix to the medical malpractice bill that is on the governor’s desk, exempting pregnant women in hospitals from having to meet a higher standard of proof.  But the state’s plaintiffs’ trial attorneys are protesting, saying that blew a last-minute hole in the bill that extends protections from emergency rooms to the entire hospital.  The House concurred with the Senate changes in an 80-32 vote.  Republican Rep. Jonathan Rhyne, a Lincolnton lawyer and a sponsor of both bills, said he was satisfied with the final results even though the bills didn’t accomplish all he intended originally.


The House and Senate are wrapping up action on dozens of bills today and tonight, aiming to adjourn the regular session tomorrow.  They plan to return in July for a special session redistricting and election law, and possibly again later this year to debate several proposed state constitutional amendments.


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