North Carolina General Assembly Week in Review

May 17, 2024

While members of the North Carolina General Assembly were back in Raleigh for another busy week of committee meetings and floor voting sessions, North Carolina voters headed to the pools on Tuesday, May 14, to cast their ballots in the state’s runoff election. 133,419 voters cast a ballot in the two statewide contests, the Republican nominations for lieutenant governor and state auditor, marking North Carolina’s first runoff election in a statewide contest since 2012.

With 74.45% of the vote, Hal Weatherman beat Jim O’Neill in the runoff race for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Weatherman will now go on to face current state Sen. Rachel Hunt (D-Mecklenburg) in the November general election. In the runoff race for the Republican nomination for state auditor, Dave Boliek beat opponent Jack Clark with 53.15% of the vote. Boliek will go up against incumbent state auditor, Democrat Jessica Holmes, in the general.

A congressional race was also included on the ballot for the Republican nomination for US House District 13, however, Brad Knott, who received 90.77% of the vote on Tuesday, was the only candidate remaining in the race. Kelly Daughtry announced that she would be dropping out of the race after early voting had already begun, meaning that her name would still appear on the ballot.

For more information on the statewide runoff election results, visit the State Board of Elections website, or click here.

Mask Changes

A bill aimed at amending North Carolina’s public mask wearing laws moved through the Senate this week, ultimately passing the chamber by a final 30-15 vote. HB 237: Unmasking Mobs and Criminals would repeal the health and safety exemption from the state’s laws prohibiting the wearing of masks in public, among other changes.

HB 237 would repeal the health and safety exemption from laws prohibiting the wearing of masks in public established during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the bill would enhance criminal penalties against an individual wearing a mask to conceal their identity during the commission of another crime, limit the discretionary authority of the executive branch and local governments during a state of emergency to prohibit any distinction between religious institutions and other entities during the emergency, and would impose criminal and civil liability on individuals who willfully obstruct emergency vehicles during a demonstration.

The repeal of the health and safety exception from longstanding North Carolina laws that ban wearing masks in public was the main point of debate as the bill made its way through committee and to the Senate floor throughout the week. Bill sponsors stated that the goal of HB 237 is to prohibit individuals from wearing masks to conceal their identity in public spaces while also committing other crimes. Supporters of the legislation argued that the intent behind the bill is to enhance public safety and accountability by making it easier for law enforcement to identify individuals who engage in illegal activities.

Bill sponsors also argued that there was not a need for the pandemic-era health and safety exemption in public mask wearing laws anymore, however, opponents of the change disagreed, arguing that the change will put immunocompromised individuals at risk. Opponents also pushed back on the idea that removing the exemption will help aide law enforcement during demonstrations, instead arguing that the mask ban would have a chilling effect on free speech and peaceful assembly, especially for individuals who may fear retaliation for their participation in a demonstration.

HB 237 will now go back to the House for a concurrence vote. During Wednesday morning’s Senate Committee on Rules and Operations meeting, bill sponsors indicated that they were continuing to have conversations with House leadership about potential changes once the bill is sent back over to the House.

Upcoming Legislative Meetings

Monday, May 20

10:00 AM House: Session Convenes
3:00 PM Senate: Session Convenes

Tuesday, May 21

11:00 AM House: Pensions and Retirement
1:00 PM Senate: Commerce and Insurance
2:00 PM House: Families, Children, and Aging Policy

Wednesday, May 22

10:00 AM House: Judiciary 2

Thursday, May 23

10:00 AM House: State Personnel