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Pat McCrory 4On Wednesday evening, Governor McCrory stated that he is planning on signing the controversial House Bill 465 when it reaches his desk. The Governor’s statement came hours after the House voted 71 to 43 to make the bill, which includes a 72-hour abortion waiting period, law in North Carolina.

The Governor’s decision came as a shock to those who had trusted him to stay true to his word. During his 2012 campaign, McCrory promised he would not sign any additional restrictions on abortions into law. However in 2013, he signed a bill creating unnecessary regulations for abortion clinics and further restricting insurance coverage of abortions. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it was expected that when faced with a blatant abortion restriction, the Governor would veto the bill. It is clear now that McCrory has no intention of keeping his campaign promise. He is happy with the revised version of the bill; he has declared that it will positively protect women’s health. (Scroll down to see the video of the Governor’s now blatantly broken 2012 pledge and his explanation of the first time he went back on it).

The HB 465 that the Governor plans to sign looks nothing like the bill that was first introduced in April, with one exception: the mandated 72-hour waiting period.

The initial version of the bill included strong restrictions on the ability of doctors and UNC system hospitals to perform safe abortions. The final version leaves out the restrictions on UNC but adds in tougher laws against statutory rape and sex offenses. It also adds protections for victims of domestic violence. With the second edition of the bill, it appeared that the Legislature had realized the error of their ways and the absurdity of preventing one of the best ob-gyn programs in the country from teaching this family planning skill. Unfortunately, that clarity did not last long. Within weeks, without providing a reason, the Republican-controlled Senate decided to dump unrelated criminal justice provisions into the bill.

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Commentary

McCrory budgetIt’s been great to see Gov. McCrory veto two major pieces of legislation in as many days. His rejection of the absurd bill to re-institute marriage discrimination and the overly-broad proposal to limit free speech by employees who witness objectionable things in their workplaces (aka the “Ag Gag” bill)  constitutes a welcome departure from his normal posture vis a vis the General Assembly — i.e. serving mostly as a doormat.

That said, there are two obvious next steps for the Governor if he wants this little episode to amount to anything more than just a brief and quickly forgotten hiccup in the Raleigh policy battles.

First, he needs to veto the dangerous anti-abortion bill that lawmakers will send to him next week. The Guv promised during his 2012 campaign that he would approve no more restrictions on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion and there is simply no way to spin House Bill 465 as anything other than just that.

Second, he needs to take the next step and figure out a way to use the hint of a backbone he’s recently discovered as means of becoming the kind of leader who can effectively negotiate with the General Assembly before it ever gets to the point at which  he has to use the veto. The Guv is (or, at least, ought to be) the most visible and powerful Republican in North Carolina. That he has been so utterly inept in driving or even managing the agenda of a legislature controlled by members of his own party might just be unprecedented in recent state history. Until not that long ago, Gov. Jim Hunt exercised enormous control over a General Assembly of his party without the power to veto.

The bottom line: Two and a half years into his term, Pat McCrory has begun to learn how to crawl as Governor. If he wants to stand, walk upright and lead, he needs to do a lot more.

Commentary

Good for Gov. Pat McCrory. He announced this afternoon that he would veto the bill passed by the House today that would allow magistrates to opt out of their duty to officiate at marriages due to their “religious beliefs.”

Now, the question is: Can he make a veto stick or will he just get rolled over by state lawmakers as he usually does? A first look at the veto override math leads to the conclusion that he will have his work cut out for him.

The Senate seems likely to be a lost cause since only 30 votes are necessary to override and the bill passed with 32. There were also two excused absences — at least one of whom is a sure thing to support an override.

The House is where the drama will be. Assuming all members are present, 72 votes are necessary for an override. Since the bill passed by votes of 65-45 and 67-43, there would appear to be some hope. Note however, that there were 10 people who failed to participate in both votes. Add to this that at least two members voted for the measure on third reading who did not do so on second reading (Democrat Charles Graham went from “not voting” to “yes” and Republican David Lewis went from “no” to “yes”) and you can see how this could quickly get very messy.

The bottom line: Stay tuned as we’re about to find out a lot about McCrory and the future of North Carolina.

Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown

McCollum BrownThe failure of Governor Pat McCrory to grant pardons to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown after more than eight months now borders on the farcical.

The editorial page of the Fayetteville Observer is the latest to weigh in with an exceedingly polite editorial entitled “Unjustly convicted, these men deserve justice.” Here is the conclusion:

“Eight months ago, a Robeson County judge reviewed the evidence and ordered the two men released. Since then, they have lived with their sister, near Eastover. The two are adjusting to the 21st century, learning about the Internet, cellphones and other integral parts of modern life that arrived while they were in prison.

But they are still in limbo, still not completely free to resume a normal life. Because of their rape conviction, they were ordered to registered as sex offenders before they were released. Their convictions are still on their records and a serious impediment to finding work.

By law, the state owes them $50,000 for each year of their improper incarceration, up to a maximum of $750,000. And even more important, the governor owes them a pardon – which rightfully should have come as soon as the men were cleared of the crimes. Three decades of their lives were unjustly taken away. There is no compensation large enough.

We hope the governor and his staff move quickly to clear McCollum’s and Brown’s records and get them the compensation they are due. They’ve given up more than anyone ever should.”

Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown

BrownMcCollum-v2-web-60percent-grayAs has been chronicled for some time now on these pages, the unexplained delay in justice for Henry McCollum and Leon Brown continues. This is Day 243 since the pair submitted their pardon application to Gov. McCrory. The two remain essentially indigent after having had 31 years of their lives stolen by the state of North Carolina. Today, in and an encouraging development, the Charlotte Observer editorial page has lent its voice to the growing list of groups and individuals calling on the Governor to fish or cut bait on the matter. As the editorial notes:

“McCollum and Brown need a pardon to receive compensation because they were exonerated by a judge. A different path to exoneration – the innocence commission followed by a three-judge panel – does not require a pardon. A bill to treat exonerated inmates the same passed the House unanimously last month and is now in the Senate.

McCollum and Brown are both mentally disabled, penniless and adjusting to society after 31 years under the state’s control. That their lives were wrongly taken from them by an overzealous prosecutor and others is horrific. Now, McCrory’s delay has left them struggling to pay bills and with records still tainted by the lack of a pardon.

As part of McCrory’s investigation, the SBI and the Robeson County DA’s office are exploring whether the two had any culpability in the original crime. The investigation that freed them, though, was uncommonly thorough, and the judge found not only that there was not enough evidence to retry them, but that they were actually innocent.

McCrory’s extensive probe is unnecessary, and shouldn’t take more than eight months, in any case. He needs to wrap it up and let McCollum and Brown get on with the lives the state unconscionably took from them.’

Let’s hope the Guv is paying attention.