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NC Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Drug-Tests For Welfare Applicants

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File photo of a drug test. (credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a drug test. (credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Pat McCrory on Thursday vetoed his first two bills as North Carolina’s governor.

He blocked a drug-test requirement for certain welfare applicants and he stopped a broader exemption for temporary workers whom employers don’t have to verify are eligible to work in the U.S.

The Republican governor, in carrying out his formal objections to legislation approved by the GOP-led General Assembly, said parts of the welfare testing bill were “unfair, fiscally irresponsible and have potential operational problems” and wouldn’t help people stop taking drugs.

The other measure would have exempted employers from using the E-Verify system for temporary workers of less than nine months, compared to no more than 3 months that is currently law. The bill, designed in part to help farmers who need seasonal labor, would make it easier to hire immigrants who are in the country illegally in more industries than just agriculture, McCrory said.

“Every job an illegal immigrant takes is one less job available for a legal North Carolina citizen,” McCrory said in a prepared statement. “We must do everything we can to help protect jobs for North Carolinians first and foremost.”

The governor is now required to call the General Assembly back to Raleigh by early September so lawmakers can attempt to override his vetoes. Both measures passed the House and Senate in the legislative session’s final days last month by wide veto-proof margins. A veto override requires yes votes from three-fifths of the members present in each chamber.

McCrory did issue an separate executive order dated Wednesday that attempts to address a portion of the drug-testing bill that would have subjected welfare and food stamp applicants to expanded background criminal history checks. The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that county social services offices conduct criminal checks for first-time or renewing applicants.

McCrory, who took office in January, said the executive order reflects his support for “efforts to ensure that fugitive felons are not on public assistance rolls.”

The bills would have to first be considered by the House, where Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, expressed displeasure with both vetoes.

Tillis said in a statement that while the executive order “shows agreement on important aspects of the bill, I will consult with members of the House and Senate on the questions that remain as we move forward.” Tillis said the immigration bill, which largely is comprised of a wide-ranging study on immigration matters, “received strong bipartisan support and sought to provide clarity to employers and agencies regarding the impact of illegal immigration in North Carolina.”

The governor pointed out legislators provided no funds for the Department of Public Safety to carry out the study, which is “a fiscally irresponsible approach,” his office said.

The welfare bill would have directed state HHS to administer a drug test to any applicant to or recipient of the Work First welfare program who the agency “reasonably suspects is engaged in the illegal use of controlled substances.” A person who tests positive for drugs would have to pay for any substance abuse program or retest they’d be required to participate in should they want to reapply for benefits soon.

The current law already requires local social service agencies to screen for substance abusers but no drug testing is required. Supporters of the bill said people with drug problems shouldn’t be getting money from the state they could use to buy drugs instead of food and clothing for their families.

McCrory’s office said drug testing in welfare programs in Utah, Arizona and elsewhere “proved to be expensive and ineffective at catching drug abusers.”

McCrory had more than 35 bills on his desk as of early Thursday that he must decide by Aug. 25 whether to sign, veto or let become law without his signature. He has already signed several high-profile bills since the legislature adjourned three weeks ago, including tougher rules on abortion, loosened regulations on carrying concealed weapons and a wide-ranging election overhaul measure that requires photo identification to vote in person.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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