McCrory vetoes ‘ag-gag’ bill; 2nd veto in as many days

McCrory vetoes 'ag-gag' bill; 2nd veto in as many days (Image 1)
McCrory vetoes 'ag-gag' bill; 2nd veto in as many days (Image 1)

Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed his second bill in two days Friday, this time a bipartisan measure backers say would give North Carolina employers recourse against people who deliberately get hired to try to take company secrets or dig up dirt.

The bill lets an employer sue and get monetary damages from someone who gains access to non-public areas of a company without authority and commits theft or sets up a camera or audio recorder.

McCrory, a Republican, said the bill’s intent is laudable but its content falls short of ensuring protections for “honest employees who uncover criminal activity.”

“I am concerned that subjecting these employees to potential civil penalties will create an environment that discourages them from reporting illegal activities,” McCrory said in a written statement. He said the measure runs counter to a bill he signed earlier in the week that increases penalties for employees at adult care homes who fail to report abuse they see.

Lawmakers can try to override McCrory’s veto of the “Property Protection Act.” Three-fifths of those voting in each chamber would have to agree in order to cancel the veto and enact the law immediately. The bill originally passed the House and Senate by margins above the threshold – the House vote was 99-19. A primary bill sponsor didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment early Friday afternoon.

McCrory encouraged legislators to rework the bill to add protections for employees “who report illegal activities directly and confidentially to the proper authorities.” Lawmakers supporting the bill have argued it wouldn’t weaken whistleblower protections or target workers who come across illegalities in their regular course of work.

Animal rights groups praised McCrory for blocking what they call an “ag-gag” bill, saying it would quash undercover probes of animal cruelty or food safety violations at agricultural operations and meat plants. The bill applies broadly to other employers.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States spoke against the measure. Dozens of people associated with Mercy for Animals demonstrated this week outside the old Capitol building, where McCrory keeps an office.

Making the bill law “would have perpetuated animal abuse and endanger workers’ rights, consumer health and safety and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply,” Mercy for Animals President Nathan Runkle said.

The North Carolina Chamber supports the bill, which allows civil damages of $5,000 for each day the law is violated, as well as other possible damages.

On Thursday, McCrory vetoed a religious exemption bill for some court officials to refuse gay marriage duties. He has now vetoed five bills since taking office in early 2013. Two vetoes have been overridden.

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