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N.C. Opinions: Greensboro

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McCrory right to selectively enforce new regulations

From an editorial in Sunday’s (Greensboro) News & Record:

Gov. Pat McCrory took a yes-but approach to some of the regulatory reforms enacted by the legislature this year.

He signed the 59-page regulatory reform bill but issued executive orders that softened two troubling provisions.

Now, some lawmakers are questioning whether what McCrory did amounts to issuing line-item vetoes – a power North Carolina’s governor lacks.

Experts say that question would have to be decided in court, but there’s no need to go there this time. McCrory offered convincing justifications for his executive orders.

One “reform” written by the legislature was to allow leaking from trucks hauling solid waste. Apparently, haulers were finding it inconvenient to comply with the previous law requiring them to carry garbage in “leak-proof” containers. They wanted a standard of “leak-resistant.” That’s too porous when the goal is to keep public roads as clean as possible.

In his order, McCrory noted that the weaker provision conflicts with the state’s obligation to maintain public health and safety.

The second order had to do with billboards. The new legislation allows cutting of more trees along highway ramps when a motorist’s view of outdoor advertising is obstructed.

McCrory’s order made two significant changes. One was to say the Department of Transportation could authorize a “one-time modification of the cut or removal zone that will permit the sign to be more clearly viewed.” The original language would allow repeated modifications. The second was to direct that the department “consult with local municipalities before approving plans” for more clearing of vegetation. The legislature intended to give no voice to local governments.

The governor said his order is supported by the state’s responsibility to regulate outdoor advertising along roadways “in order to promote the safety, health, welfare of our local communities … while preserving and enhancing the natural scenic beauty of the highways.”

His order is ambiguous in that it doesn’t indicate whether municipalities can block tree-cutting within their city limits. The answer is likely not. But state officials at least can consider local concerns.

McCrory could have vetoed the entire regulatory reform bill, but he supported most of its provisions. He did the next best thing by using his executive authority to improve two of its faulty components. Did he overstep? The legislature should leave that question alone this time.

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