Today's riddle: What has 170 mouths and persists like a bad rash? The Legislature.
Lawmakers will reconvene after Labor Day to consider overriding Gov. Pat McCrory's two vetoes. The first is House Bill 392, which would require people applying for public assistance, such as EBT cards, to undergo a drug test. At least eight states have passed such legislation; another 29, including North Carolina, introduced these measures this year.
Federal courts have halted Florida's enforcement of the law on constitutional grounds, but the fiscal wizards in North Carolina would be wise to note the cost of such a program.
According to the The Miami Herald, of the 4,086 applicants who were tested while Florida's law was being enforced, 108 failed, mostly for marijuana.
The state had to reimburse a total of $118,140 for the cost of the test to applicants who passed it. The program ended in a net loss of $45,000 for Florida taxpayers—equal to the price of 125 ounces of high-grade weed in North Carolina. I know where I'd rather spend my money.
McCrory made friends with the anti-immigration crowd in vetoing HB 786, which contains a loophole in the e-Verify system. Under the measure, state contractors would have to confirm a job applicant's immigration status through e-Verify, except for employees who work less than nine months in a calendar year—largely agricultural workers. The previous exemption for seasonal employees was 90 days. McCrory said the loophole allows businesses to exempt a higher percentage of employees from proving they are legal U.S. citizens or residents, thus penalizing legal North Carolina residents from possibly getting those jobs.
You know, the seasonal jobs that pay less than minimum wage, force workers to toil in the hot sun all day without a break and expose field hands to pesticides.
McCrory did sign a slew of bills last week, including HB 74. Spun as regulatory reform legislation, the 59-pager was filled with special interest giveaways. The bill all but forbids local governments from regulating or prohibiting the repair or reconstruction of billboards as long as the square-footage remains the same. Local governments would have to pay "just compensation" to prohibit these changes. It also allows billboard companies to clear cut trees so you can see their outdoor messages for strip clubs more easily. This legislation especially could affect Durham, which has a strict billboard ordinance.
The bill also allows polluters to contaminate groundwater up to their property line—as if groundwater magically stops at a legal boundary. Among other toxic provisions: Landfills can now be constructed adjacent to state gamelands acquired by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission after July 1. And the garbage trucks hauling that waste to the landfill don't have to be "leak-proof," only "leak-resistant."
If you've ever dropped your iPhone in the bathtub, you know the difference between the two.
Apparently North Carolina doesn't need $65 million: On Oct. 1, more than 1 million North Carolinians will be eligible for a break in their health insurance premiums under the federal Affordable Care Act—and because of the legislature, many of them won't know about it. North Carolina is refusing $20 million in federal grants that would have educated state residents about their options under the new health care program. Another $45 million would have been earmarked for upgrading information technology related to the ACA.
Senate Bill 4, which also rejected expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, required the state health and human services department to forgo the money. Read the entire saga in the Carolina Mercury.