News: Quick Takes

Lawmakers override Cooper’s veto of GenX, plastic bag ban bill

The General Assembly swiftly and easily voted Wednesday to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of House Bill 56.

The package of environmental law amendments diminishes counties’ monopoly on solid waste disposal sites and overturns what critics call an unconstitutional plastic bag ban.

Cooper said he vetoed the bill because it failed to provide more funding to state agencies charged with protecting water quality, weakened river protection from landfill discharges, and repealed the bag ban.

Cooper has vetoed 12 bills, and the General Assembly now has quashed eight of those with override votes. Only Gov. Bev Perdue issued more vetoes in a single year — 15 in 2011, and 19 during the 2011-12 biennium. Eleven of those were overturned by overrides.

The remaining four vetoes could face override votes this week: Senate Bill 16, the Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2017; House Bill 205, Workers Compensation Changes/Legal Notice Modernization; House Bill 511, Game Nights/Nonprofit Fund-Raiser; and House Bill 576, Allow Aerosolization of Leachate.

Republicans and Democrats were divided over H.B. 56, also pitting the N.C. Chamber of Commerce against the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.

Gary Salamido, vice president of the state Chamber, posted a blog Tuesday saying passage of H.B. 56 would begin dismantling local governments’ monopolistic control of solid waste management. The system is anti-business, contains hidden taxes in the form of tipping fees, and drives up disposal costs, he said.

The bill allows competition from safer, larger, more economically viable private facilities, Salamido said.

The Senate voted 30-9 without debate to override, getting the needed three-fifths vote of members present. The House voted 70-44 to override.

Proponents said it establishes a coastal storm management mitigation fund; cuts bureaucracy and red tape in mining while increasing permit fees to pay for more reports and ensure safety; and eases cleaning spills from above-ground storage sites.

They said the governor’s veto does nothing to provide more funding for the GenX chemical release in the Cape Fear River and halts programs studying options for removing the chemical.

Opponents said affected communities along the coast oppose repealing the plastic bag ban. Debris from plastic bags along the southern coast, which doesn’t have a ban, far exceeds refuse to the north, showing the ban is working environmentally vital, they said.

Opponents said the GenX efforts are a bottom-up, piecemeal and reactionary solution. They believe a better approach would be a top-down, statewide government program created with additional funding to the Department of Environmental Quality.

The public likes programs recycling tires and white goods paid for with tipping fees, opponents said. They disputed the idea calling the fees are hidden taxes.