In its latest sojourn to Raleigh, the General Assembly once again did little, and quickly went home. Legislative leaders’ continued refusal to negotiate with Gov. Roy Cooper or the minority party on … well, anything … made last Tuesday’s mini-session another wasted opportunity for progress.
On one small positive note, the latest in an ongoing string of “regulatory reform” bills went down to final defeat when the Senate blocked a veto override on a party-line vote. Like its predecessors, Senate Bill 553 was a hodge-podge of unrelated provisions designed to loosen restrictions on various safety, environmental, and other matters. Some were innocuous, and could have been passed without controversy, but others raised substantive concerns.
In this case, one of two provisions which drew Cooper’s veto last September was a risky change to the rules governing septic systems. In his veto message, Cooper said the provision “could allow septic system permits to be issued that circumvent state septic system rules,” and thereby endanger water quality and public health. True to their standard operating procedures, Senate leadership refused to negotiate on that matter, preferring instead to fail the entire package on a party-line vote.
At least that matter came to a vote. On the long-in-limbo budget, Senate leadership once again calendared the veto override test, but withdrew the bill without a vote when all senators were present and the override would have failed. This leaves educators without a needed pay increase, and environmental protection services short of the resources to monitor and control pressing pollution problems. It also maintains the threat that the bill will be passed later, including its provisions weakening important controls on air and water pollution from corporate hog farms.
Legislators are next scheduled to return to session in April. When they do, make sure your senator knows you want him or her to uphold Gov. Cooper’s veto of the anti-environment budget!