Newsletter, must be feeling heat from more than just me:
... Solving peoples’ problems by passing sound legislation is the best part of my job, but all too often the job involves voting on legislation I would rather not become law. An example of this also occurred last week when the House overrode Governor Cooper’s veto of H 467 [Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies]. H 467 limits the amount of compensatory damages that may be awarded in a private nuisance lawsuit against an agricultural or forestry operation to the fair market value or fair rental value of the plaintiff's property.
Essentially, the bill limits lawsuits over agricultural activities that might be considered a nuisance because of odors or noise. As originally introduced, I thought the bill was unconstitutional, since it attempted to dismiss pending lawsuits involving claims that certain animal operations [hog, chicken and turkey farms] constituted nuisances. In the House, the bill was amended to only make the law applicable to future nuisance claims. I voted for that amendment and then voted for the bill, although I still wasn’t sure the change in the law was needed. Later, the Senate made some minor changes to the bill and sent it back over for concurrence. I again voted for the bill, but the bill’s sponsors knew I was a weak “yes” vote. Basically, I continued to have doubts as to the need for the bill.
The Governor then vetoed the bill, and explained his veto. At that point, the bill came back to the House, and we had to again, vote on the bill. The House voted to override the veto on a vote of 74 to 40. Initially, I was going to vote “no.” I hate special interest legislation that gives special protection or privileges to some industry or group of people, and H 467 was clearly special interest legislation. However, I ended up voting to override the Governor’s veto.
Why did I do that? To override a governor’s veto, each chamber must vote by a three-fifths vote of members present and voting. Depending on how many House Members were voting, something between 69 and 72 votes were going to be needed to override Governor Cooper’s veto. House leadership knew several House Members were absent, and the bill was only going to be brought to the floor if there were enough votes to override.
If everyone were present, there were clearly enough votes to override even if I joined some number of my colleagues in voting against the bill. However, just before the vote, a Member supportive of the bill had to leave to address a family health issue and the vote to override was in doubt. I voted to override, in part, to simply get the issue behind us. Had I told leadership I would vote “no,” they would have just postponed the vote and taken it up later. As it turned out, the vote was not as close as expected, but I suspect there were other Members who were inclined to vote “no” but then voted “yes” when it became clear the veto was going to be overridden.
People will ask “why’d you vote “yes” when you had doubts about the bill?” My reason was that I believe one can’t fight every battle. To be effective, one must pick one’s battles. H 467 was a major priority for the agricultural community, and the agricultural community is important in my district. While I was willing to vote “no” if my vote made a difference, when both supporters and opponents of the bill confirmed the bill would pass if all members were present, I voted “yes” to put the issue behind us.
The sponsors of this legislation included Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin) and Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson). Both of them are strong legislators whose support will be needed on other matters important to me. If I had voted “no,” it ultimately would have made no difference and my vote could have hurt my relationship with some colleagues whose support is essential on issues more important to me than H 467.
Still, I hate voting against my gut feeling about a bill. If passing a good bill is a high, then voting for a bad bill or a bill one doesn’t think is necessary is a low. I’m often asked to vote for bills I don’t really like. I know I can’t fight every battle, and I’m not willing to waste my time on issues that I can’t change or influence. But it still doesn’t feel good.
Rep. Chuck McGrady
117th House District
Summary: He chose his GOP over the health, safety and property rights of North Carolinians and even his own conscience. Ick.