Cleaning out the ‘veto garage’?

Will the “veto garage” open up?

On Wednesday, the N.C. General Assembly will meet to consider overriding Gov. Bev Purdue’s veto of a bill that would change the way death penalty convicts can challenge their sentences. Votes to override vetoes are rare in North Carolina, partially because the veto is a relatively new component of the state’s politics.

For most of our state’s history, the governor did not have the authority to reject laws passed by the legislature. It wasn’t until 1996 that the veto came on board, making North Carolina the last state in the union to bestow such authority to its chief executive. A veto wasn’t successfully overridden until 2008 when a bill that would exempt the towing of recreational boats from some regulations was passed despite Gov. Mike Easley’s objection.

A veto doesn’t mean that the proposed legislation is officially dead. The General Assembly can overcome a veto if three-fifths of each chamber of the legislature votes to override and this is what Wednesday’s session is all about.

Republicans hold 31 of the 50 seats in the N.C. Senate. If all members show up and vote on party lines, they would have the numbers to override a veto. In the N.C. House, Republicans control 68 of the 52 seats – not quite three-fifths – so it is the chamber that is being more closely monitored.

The bill being considered for a veto this time was passed along party lines. Assuming Republicans vote to override and Democrats do not, it will all come down to which members make the trip to Raleigh. As the General Assembly is a “citizen’s legislature,” not a full time job, many members may have other commitments.

But there is more at stake here than just appeals for capital felons and thus more incentive to come to Raleigh. Although it might require some legislative maneuvering, it is possible that any bill that has been vetoed at any time this last session could be brought up for a vote. Bills about energy regulation, community colleges, health care and voting have been “parked” in a “veto garage” and could also be considered if the Republican leadership thinks they can pass them.

Of course will carry these sessions live.  Stay tuned.

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