RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced at the end of last week he had let two bills become law without his signature. The two bills in question are both measures he had vetoed during past legislative sessions.
A North Carolina governor has 10 days to take action on a bill presented to them. If no action is taken, the bills automatically become law.
One of the bills was House Bill 40, titled “Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder,” and was sponsored by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain).
“I acknowledge that changes were made to modify this legislation’s effect after my veto of a similar bill last year,” wrote Cooper in a statement about House Bill 40. “Property damage and violence are already illegal and my continuing concerns about the erosion of the First Amendment and the disparate impacts on communities of color will prevent me from signing this legislation.”
Even with some small changes, House Bill 40 is nearly identical to House Bill 805 which Moore introduced in 2021. The 2021 bill was passed by both chambers; however, Cooper vetoed the measure.
“People who commit crimes during riots and all other times should be prosecuted and our laws provide for that, but this legislation is unnecessary and is intended to intimidate and deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peacefully protest,” wrote Cooper in his veto message of House Bill 805.
In a statement, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) said, “Nearly three years after violent protests devastated communities and businesses in North Carolina, I am pleased that this bipartisan legislation will finally become law.
“While the First Amendment guarantees the right to peacefully protest, those who hijack otherwise peaceful demonstrations to cause chaos and destruction in our communities must be held accountable, and law enforcement must have our support to do just that,” Moore added. “This bill has had bipartisan support since it was first introduced, and our communities will be safer now that this bill will finally become law.”
The bill had passed both chambers with enough bipartisan support that an override would be successful had Cooper vetoed the measure. Last fall, Republicans picked up a supermajority in the Senate with 30 of the 50 seats. Republicans in the House garnered 71 out of 120 seats, just shy of the needed 72 (60%) for a supermajority.
The Senate passed the bill 27-16 with Sen. Mary Wills Bode (D-Wake), voting yes. Bode had been endorsed by Cooper in the 2022 election cycle.
The House passed the bill by a vote of 75-43 with six Democrats voting in favor: Reps. Cecil Brockman (Guilford), Laura Budd (Mecklenburg), Abe Jones (Wake), Garland Pierce (Scotland), Shelly Willingham (Edgecombe) and Michael Wray (Northampton).
The second bill was Senate Bill 53, titled “Hotel Safety Issues.”
“This bill was given broad support in the legislature and there are potential positive modifications being discussed by legislators,” Cooper wrote of Senate Bill 53. “However safe housing is sometimes only available from temporary shelter such as hotels, and I remain concerned that this bill will legalize unfair treatment for those who need protection, and this will prevent me from signing it.”
Last session, Cooper vetoed House Bill 352, which carried the same name and general language as the one he just allowed to become law without his signature. His veto message on the past measure was similar to the remarks Cooper made about the current bill.
“This is welcome news for hotel and motel operators and the safety of their guests,” Rep. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill will address concerns of innkeepers about guests who have been difficult to remove despite repeatedly violating hotel rules or breaking the law. By clarifying the rules for long-term guests, this bill will ensure hoteliers and law enforcement are able to remove disorderly tenants.”
Had the governor issued vetoes, they would have been his 76th and 77th.