RALEIGH — On Thursday the N.C. General Assembly returns to the state capital for an August legislative session scheduled in the June 30 adjournment resolution. Since then, Gov. Roy Cooper has signed 105 bills into law and vetoed four. Four additional bills became law without his signature on July 31 because his time to act on them expired. According to the state constitution, a three-fifths majority vote is required for the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto. The August session could also include consideration of conference reports on various bills.
The four bills that became law without Cooper’s signature include Restore Campus Free Speech which details the role of the University of North Carolina campuses in free speech protection. The measure establishes student free speech as a fundamental right and says that institutions may not shield students from speech nor require expression of a particular social policy. It directs information about free expression to be included in freshmen orientation and formation of an 11-member Free Speech Committee within the university system to set policy and handle conflicts.
Among the bills signed into law by the governor is one that makes N.C. the 22nd state to bar state agencies from doing business with companies that boycott Israel. The bill passed the state House by a vote of 96-19 and the state Senate by a vote of 45-3.
“It is important for us to protect Israel as a friend, ally and trading partner of the United States. I am honored to be a lead sponsor of this legislation,” said Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) who is a lead sponsor of the bill with Rep. Stephen Ross (R-Alamance) and Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland).
Cooper also signed two criminal justice bills, one that makes it easier for people convicted of a crime in N.C. to have it expunged from their record by reducing the wait time from 15 to five years for a first-time nonviolent misdemeanor or felony conviction, and 10 years for other felony conviction. Cooper also signed legislation that raises the age limit for being charged as an adult from 16 years old to 18.”We don’t want young people to be held back for life because of one bad decision,” said Cooper. “We want them and their families to work with our juvenile justice system so we can get them on the right path.”
Legislation that offers reform on solar energy policy (H.B. 589) also got the governor’s signature in spite of his objection to a moratorium imposed by the legislature on wind farm permits until 2020. The moratorium was intended to allow time to create maps of the growing number of wind farms in order to minimize impact on the military and defense missions in eastern N.C. Defense is N.C.’s second largest industry and Sen. Harry Borwn (R-Onslow) told a Senate subcommittee that the maps are critical to ensuring service member safety and industry protection as the federal government examines base realignment.
“Taking a step back to make sure that there’s a balance between the military and wind making sure that they can co-exist is important,” Brown told the committee. “To not protect that (military) resource, I think, would be a huge mistake.”
Cooper disagreed and called the moratorium “politically motivated.” “As I signed the bill into law today, I also signed Executive Order No. 11 that will mitigate the effects of the moratorium,” said Cooper. “This executive order directs DEQ to continue recruiting wind energy investments and to move forward with all of the behind-the-scenes work involved with bringing wind energy projects online, including reviewing permits and conducting preapplication review for prospective sites.” Cooper also vetoed four bills since June, including one that allowed charities to hold casino night fundraisers and one that would have allowed landfills to collect liquid runoff and vaporize it into the air around the landfill.
After the August session, the legislature is expected to return for another session beginning Sept. 6 to focus on congressional, legislative and judicial redistricting.