Cover Story: Last-minute scramble

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Bev Perdue's veto pen.  Is it mightier than the GOP majority?

In the final hours of this controversial legislative session, North Carolina's governor could flex her veto power several more times.

North Carolina's General Assembly could wrap up this year's legislative session Thursday tonight.

And the GOP majority is scrambling to push through a flurry of new bills.

Proposed laws that could change your life.

But they all still need the Governor's signature. And remember, she's a Democrat.

Republicans campaigned on a promise that they would do things differently.

Turning out a budget is one example.  No General Assembly has enacted a state spending plan this early in 32 years.

Now they're turning their attention to social issues and legislation friendly to business which gives some people angst.

One of the most immediate changes as a result of the new budget is that historic sites like the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer (places that used to have free admission) will cost to get in.

Admission will be $10 for adults, which visitor Norris Lyda says he won't mind paying.

"Unfortunately our economic situation is going to force them to charge a few bucks to get in.. vacation tourist trap.. things like that you kinda expect it," says Lyda.

Also expect to see a little more money in your pocket.

North Carolina's state sales tax drops a penny.  It goes back to what it was in 2008.  From 7.75 percent to 6.75 percent.

Mecklenburg county's drops to about 7-cents on the dollar, which is still highest in the state.

Republicans in control of the General Assembly have sent to the governor:

  • A bill that would regulate abortions.  Women would have to get an ultrasound and wait 24 hours after a counseling session before getting an abortion.
  • A bill that would require a photo ID to vote.
  • The GOP is also working on legislation that would make early voting just two weeks long and end voting on Sunday.  And eliminate straight ticket voting and make judicial elections partisan.
  • Also sent to the governor, a gun bill that would expand the places where people with permits to carry concealed handguns can bring their weapons.

Dr. Michael Bitzer, a professor of History and Politics at Catawba College in Salisbury says don't expect all of the bills to get the governor's signature.

"First year of divided government it makes for controversial issues. And the Republicans certainly went out and drove right ahead on what they wanted to do," said Bitzer.

The session has shown some pent up frustration from Democrats no longer in charge.

"Members of this House it is a sad sad day for North Carolina," said Rep. Joe Hackney, House Minority Leader.

And from Republicans on the defensive:  "Draconian, deadly, dangerous, devastating, decimating, delirious.. those are just some of the words we've heard from the opposition and the governor on this budget," said Rep. Paul Stam, House Majority Leader.

Lawmakers are also set to allow off-shore drilling and fracking, which concerns environmentalists.  And give tax breaks to some multi-state corporations that do business in the state.

Normally, the governor's signature is a forgone conclusion - not this time.

"It's set up some real conflicts between the legislature and the governor's office. The budget was just the first volley.. you're going to have a lot more coming out," said Bitzer.

Lawmakers are working at a fast and furious clip in hopes to adjourn the session Thursday night.

Their work won't be done though.  They're scheduled to return in mid-July to tackle redistricting and vote on any of Governor Perdue's vetoes.

There is something they can agree on.

Democrats and Republicans came together to support to a bill making NASCAR the official state "sport."  The bill is on the governor's desk.

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