Two bills regarding selective drug testing for Work First applicants and the issue of illegal immigration are now law after North Carolina lawmakers overrode Gov. Pat McCrory’s vetoes of the legislation.
House members convened Tuesday, Sept. 3, for a special session following a proclamation last month by McCrory, who had vetoed House Bills 392 and 786. The House passed both veto overrides after some debate, and then the Senate convened Wednesday, Sept. 4, and quickly overrode the vetoes as well.
With support from at least three-fifths of House and Senate members present for the veto overrides, both bills became law.
McCrory said Sept. 4 he
would direct the executive branch to explore all legal and executive authority
to ensure the state follows the nation’s immigration law. The governor added
funding would be needed for drug testing before any action takes place on that
“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,” McCrory said in a prepared statement.
House Bill 392 requires drug testing for certain applicants and recipients of the Work First, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, program and denies benefits to fleeing felons or parole violators.
Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, spoke in support of the governor’s veto, arguing Work First currently requires applicants to be screened for alcohol and drug abuse.
“Do we discard a substance abuse program appropriately administered in all 100 counties with this bad bill?” Fulghum asked in an online audio feed of the Sept. 3 House session.
Fulghum questioned whether the bill would help applicants hold down jobs and support families or if it was a punitive measure.
“These new provisions lead to the definition of kicking a man while he is down,” Fulghum said.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, spoke against a section of the bill stating a controlled substance record within the last three years can serve as reasonable suspicion that a Work First applicant is illegally using drugs.
“I can’t for the life of me figure out why because someone once did something wrong within the last three years that that alone gives rise to reasonable suspicion to then have them drug tested or record checked,” Glazier said. “Their only mistake at this point as far as we know is being poor.”
Bill sponsor Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, argued Work First helps people get off welfare and hold jobs.
“Being drug-free is an essential part of the mission,” Arp said. “This requirement is not unreasonable given that many hardworking families willing to spend their tax dollars to provide this aid are tested for drugs in their own jobs.”
Rep. Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover, supported the override, while Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, opposed it.
Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover and Brunswick, had an excused absence during the override votes. Hamilton said she had an evening obligation in Wilmington and that the session had been postponed. The House convened at noon but immediately went into recess until about 4:30 p.m.
Sens. Thom Goolsby,
R-New Hanover, and Bill Rabon, R-Bladen, Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender,
both supported the drug testing override.
House Bill 786 requires the state Department of Public Safety to study illegal immigration issues and extends a seasonal worker exemption from 90 days to about nine months in the federal E-Verify system employers use to check workers’ legal status.
Catlin and Davis both voted against the override.
Rep. Chris Millis, R-Pender and Onslow, spoke against the override.
“E-Verify is … the one mechanism that we have to ensure that employers in this state are truly hiring documented legal citizens,” Millis said.
Catlin, Davis and
Goolsby opposed the immigration override and Rabon supported it.
Rep. Chris Millis,
R-Pender and Onslow, spoke against the immigration override.
Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, spoke in support of the override.
“We’re still, number one, an agricultural state,” Hall said. “We still have farmers and people in the industry that have to depend upon labor from all over the world…This bill gives them an opportunity to have more stability in their work force.”
Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, spoke against the override, arguing state lawmakers included the 90 days in E-Verify in 2011 to help farmers.
“What we’re doing is opening up illegal aliens to just about every other profession in the state,” Cleveland said. “This is a jobs bill for illegal aliens.”
Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Franklin and Nash, argued 90 days was not enough and that farmers in his area employ workers for six months at a time.
“If we don’t pass this law, outside interests have an advantage over the businesses in our state as far as the E-Verify process,” Collins added.
This story has been updated since the print deadline on Wednesday, Sept. 4.