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Vegetation near highway billboards cited for latest veto try

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(The Center Square) – Extending his record to a 95th time, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed legislation from the General Assembly, this time connected to vegetation near highway billboards.

Six House Democrats were in favor of the transportation laws included, and his pick to lead the state Department of Transportation was included in the process. Lawmakers are 19-for-19 when attempting an override since collectively beginning this two-year term in January 2023.

The legislation, DOT Legislative Changes.-AB, was led in part by Sens. Michael Lazzara, Tom McInnis and Vickie Sawyer of the chamber’s Transportation Committee. All jointly chair the panel. Lazzara is from Onslow County, McInnis from Moore and Sawyer from Iredell.

Their statement in response to the veto noted Cooper’s pick, Secretary Joey Hopkins, “helped put together” the changes. Language in the bill says recommendations were made by the Transportation Department.

The proposal was primarily sponsored by House Reps. Brendan Jones, R-Columbus; Phil Shephard, R-Onslow; Jeffrey McNeely, R-Iredell; and Steve Tyson, R-Craven.

Concurrence support after the bill came back from the Senate included Democratic Reps. Cecil Brockman and Ashton Wheeler Clemmons of Guilford County, Carla Cunningham of Mecklenburg County, Marvin Lucas of Cumberland County, Garland Pierce of Scotland County and Michael Wray of Northampton County. No Democratic senators voted for the legislation.

Cooper’s statement said, “Protecting North Carolina’s beauty should be a top priority, but this legislation allows tree cutting and destruction of native plants around billboards. In February, I signed Executive Order 305, which sets comprehensive goals for restoring and protecting natural areas, prioritizing native plants and planting 1 million trees. North Carolina’s scenic landscapes are one of the reasons why our state just broke records with our tourism economy, and why we have one of the most beautiful places in the world to live.”

Cooper’s executive order was filed Feb. 12; the legislation draft got the House clerk’s stamp of receipt Feb. 23.

The senators responded, “House Bill 198 is bipartisan, compromise legislation that the governor’s own transportation agency helped put together. Gov. Cooper’s partisan veto of this bill shows he values his relationship with Green New Deal liberal advocacy groups more than implementing good policy. We look forward to overriding Gov. Cooper’s latest misguided veto.”

Three-fifths majority in each chamber is required to override vetoes of the governor, and the Senate and House each have that many Republicans to the number. Cooper, in this 2023-24 session, is 0-for-19 on vetoes sticking. Since reaching the governor’s mansion in January 2017, he’s 0-for-42 when Republicans have three-fifths majority in each chamber, 13-for-13 when they did not from 2019-2022.

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