This Perdue Veto is Unlike The Others
Each week in this year of political firsts, North Carolina politics seems to move into uncharted waters.
One of the latest is yet another veto from Gov. Beverly Perdue, but one that may test the party and professional loyalties of both Democratic and Republican legislators.
Perdue's veto of legislation intended to limit medical malpractice awards was the Democratic governor's ninth since Republicans took control of the House and Senate back in January.
The veto differs from any of those that preceded it because the issue isn't as neatly partisan as it may first appear. Perdue's initial vetoes blocked legislation of the partisan variety.
A couple of House Democrats did vote with Republicans on a bill that would have allowed North Carolina to join the federal lawsuit attempting to block the federal health care reform law. Those Democrats, though, rejoined the party ranks once the veto stamp fell.
Other vetoes hit legislation approved along party lines, meaning that the governor could predict with a good degree of certainty that the Republican majority would be unable to override her. The reason that she could feel confident that the vetoes would stick is because the GOP is four votes short of a veto-proof majority in the House.
Then came Perdue's veto of a state budget bill, which was passed with the help of five Democrats in the House.
That veto became a symbolic gesture, a political statement. She knew that the subsequent override was likely, that odds were that the five conservative Democrats who voted for the budget plan weren't going to change their minds.
Her latest is different still.
The legislation would limit noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits to $500,000 in most cases. Noneconomic damages cover things like pain, suffering and emotional distress. The bill also severely limits damages associated with emergency care.
Medical malpractice reform had been a priority of the Republican legislative leadership. The votes, though, weren't partisan.
In the Senate, where two Democrats are doctors, the bill passed by a wide margin. In the House, where some Republicans are lawyers, the vote was fairly close, passing 62-44. Eleven House Republicans voted against the measure; 11 House Democrats voted for it.
Perdue indicated that she might sign a bill drafted differently, and she urged legislators to put together a modified bill that will "protect those who are catastrophically injured." If those modifications involve one House version of the bill that mostly gutted the primary provisions, supporters may not be interested.
The risk to the governor is that legislative leaders won't pursue a new bill, that she could face a second override of a veto.
That result is likely only if Republican opponents of the legislation decide to back legislative leaders and the will of their party caucuses. How Democratic supporters break on an override will also shape the outcome.
From a political perspective, Perdue's latest veto creates a far more intriguing and unpredictable scenario than any of those that preceded it.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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