McCrory outlines new actions
by Anna Oakes
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday outlined several executive branch responses to legislation enacted this year, including funding to ensure teachers currently pursuing master's degrees in education will receive a salary increase when they graduate.
The announcement came shortly after the N.C. Senate followed the House's lead in voting to override the governor's only two vetoes of the 2013 legislative session -- a bill authorizing drug testing of welfare applicants and a bill that expanded an exemption from E-Verify screening for seasonal workers.
McCrory's statement summarized the 2013 session and admonished lawmakers for some actions he opposed.
"One part of our culture that did not change was passing some flawed legislation during the last hours of session with little debate, understanding or transparency," he said. He accused the legislature of slipping "too much education policy" into the budget bill and of "passing bills with good intentions but unintended consequences," including long-term operational costs.
Among the changes the General Assembly made to education policy was the phasing out of a 10 to 15 percent salary increase for teachers with master's degrees. Administrators at Appalachian State University -- traditionally a leader in training the state's teachers -- worry the end of the pay supplement will result in reduced enrollment in the College of Education's graduate programs.
McCrory said Wednesday that his administration has found $10 million necessary to ensure that more than 3,000 teachers who are currently pursuing master's degrees will receive the pay supplement when they graduate.
McCrory also signed an executive order creating a new Governor's Teacher Advisory Council to give teachers a voice in the state and said the state continues to work to reduce the number of standardized tests.
"And finally, I continue my resolve and support for raises tied to the creation of a new compensation system for our teachers," he said. Republican legislators have begun a state transition to a performance-based pay structure for K-12 educators.
The governor again criticized the legislature for the two bills he vetoed following the Senate's override votes on Wednesday.
House Bill 786, the "RECLAIM NC Act," exempts workers with employment terms less than nine months of a calendar year from federal E-Verify screening. Previously, state law exempted seasonal workers employed for 90 days or less.
The bill also directed the Department of Public Safety to study the potential impacts of several measures, including increased penalties for false IDs, methods to deter the pre-trial release of undocumented immigrants who have been accused of serious crimes, establishing reasonable suspicion standards for conducting immigration status checks and implementing a process for undocumented immigrants to obtain a temporary driving privilege.
The governor said the E-Verify loophole will cause "legal North Carolinians" to lose jobs to illegal immigrants. McCrory said he would direct the executive branch to explore all legal and executive authority to ensure the nation's immigration law is followed in the state.
Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican from Jefferson, was a primary sponsor of H786. He said the bill would provide greater flexibility to the state's agricultural sector but that federal law still prohibits the hiring of illegal immigrants.
Both legislative houses also achieved the three-fifths votes necessary to override the governor's veto of H392, which requires departments of social services departments to drug test applicants "whom the department reasonably suspects is engaged in the illegal use of controlled substances."
McCrory earlier called this provision "a recipe for government overreach and unnecessary government intrusion"
and on Wednesday said his administration would take no action to implement the
new law "until sufficient funds with this unfunded mandate are provided."