North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

June 23, 2023

Pardon Our Dust

We recently launched this new site and are still in the process of updating some of our archived content. Some details of this article may be incomplete, links may be broken, and other elements may not display properly yet. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

The General Assembly is gradually approaching the conclusion of its legislative session. However, this week, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) informed his chamber that the legislative session would not conclude before the end of June, as budget negotiations are ongoing. With both chambers taking a break the week of July 4th, that means session will continue until at least mid-July. In contrast to the federal government, North Carolina’s state government will continue to operate at the funding levels established in the previously adopted budget, even after the commencement of the new fiscal year on July 1. While lawmakers are making progress on bills in both chambers, out of the more than 1,600 bills filed this session, only 50 have been enacted into law thus far.

Among the bills that worked their way through the legislature this week, the Republican-controlled legislature advanced two bills that would impact transgender individuals, including one that would ban biological males from participating on female sports teams, and another that would prohibit medical professionals from performing surgical gender transition procedures on minors.

Bill Signings and Veto Overrides

Although it was an abbreviated week due to the Juneteenth holiday, it was nonetheless a busy week during which the Republican legislature continued to flex their political muscle over Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and legislative Democrats.

On Monday, the governor signed into law the bipartisan SB58: Protect Critical Infrastructure which would increase penalties for individuals who vandalize important electric, gas, or telecommunications property. He also signed into law SB729: CBBC Working Group Changes, another bill that passed unanimously that will amend the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) contribution-based benefit cap law.

On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Senate overrode four of the governor’s vetoes from last week, including two bills that affect retail interest rates and consumer finance loans that the governor said would increase costs during “a time when the cost of living is rising.”

The Senate also overrode a veto on a bill, SB299: Reimburse Late Audit Costs with Sales Tax Revenue, that passed the legislature with bipartisan support. Governor Cooper said the bill, which would allow a portion of a county or town’s sales tax distribution to be withheld if they fail to submit an annual audit report, would “punish residents of some of our state’s smallest communities.”

Additionally, the Senate overrode Cooper’s veto of SB364: Nondiscrimination & Dignity in State Work, which would prohibit state agencies and institutions from inquiring into “matters prohibited as compelled speech” during their hiring processes. 

All four bills are scheduled for override votes in the House next week.

Lastly, on Thursday, Senate Republicans amended the controversial abortion law, SB20: Care for Women, Children, and Families Act, which was passed, vetoed and overridden last month, through an unrelated bill on the Senate floor. The amendment, which passed along party lines, would confirm that medical abortions are legal up to 12 weeks in all cases and that there would only be one 72-hour waiting period for women choosing to have abortions. The amendment would change parts of the original bill that are targeted by a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and state residents. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles has scheduled an emergency hearing for Wednesday to consider a temporary injunction to SB20. Senate Democrats opposed the amendment, and objected to third reading of the bill, meaning the Senate cannot formally advance the bill to the House until Monday at the earliest.

Transgender Athletes

This week the legislature sent to Democratic Governor Roy Cooper the first of a handful of bills being considered by the legislature that would affect transgender individuals. HB574: Fairness in Women’s Sports Act passed the Senate this week before passing the House on a concurrence vote. Pursuant to the bill, athletic teams designated for females, women, or girls would not be open to students of the male sex, which the bill states is “based solely on the student’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” The House concurred with the Senate’s version of HB574, which included a change allowing females to participate on male sports teams, including wrestling, which had been specifically carved out in the version of the bill that initially passed the House.

The legislation would create a civil cause of action for any student who is deprived of athletic opportunities as a result of a violation of the bill, or for any student retaliated against by a public school unit or athletic organization for reporting a violation of the bill. 

As the bill made its way through the legislature, lawmakers heard from female athletes and coaches who supported the bill, citing concerns about safety and the impact on scholarship opportunities for female athletes. Lawmakers also heard from LGBTQ+ advocates, who voiced concerns about the implications the legislation would have on transgender youth and their ability to find community through playing on athletic teams. Representative Vernetta Alston (D-Durham) spoke against the bill on the House floor this week, arguing it would “make more people feel isolated and alone.”

The vote on HB579 was largely along party lines. Representative Michael Wray (D-Northampton) and Senator Val Applewhite (D-Cumberland) were the lone Democrats who voted for the final version of the bill in their respective chambers. Governor Cooper has spoken against the bill in the past, and is likely to veto it, setting up a potential veto override.

Protecting Law Enforcement

The Senate advanced HB34: Protect Those Who Serve and Protect Act this week, sending the bill back to the House for a concurrence vote. HB34 would create an offense for those who attempt or discharge a firearm at an unoccupied emergency vehicle. The punishment for pointing a laser at a law enforcement officer is increased, and an additional infraction is created for pointing a laser at a police canine. To further protect those who are in law enforcement, this legislation would increase the punishments for assaulting law enforcement officers and other government personnel.

The bill advanced through the legislature easily this week, with proponents from multiple law enforcement advocacy organizations speaking in support of its intentions. The Senate left the House bill intact, but added sections to increase the criminal punishments for assaults committed against law enforcement officers and other government personnel.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, June 26

3:00 PM: Senate Session
4:00 PM: Senate Finance
4:00 PM: House Session

Tuesday, June 27

11:00 AM: House Alcoholic Beverage Control
12:00 PM: Senate State and Local Government
3:00 PM: House Energy and Public Utilities

Wednesday, June 28

10:00 AM: House Judiciary 2