RALEIGH — One of the first bills to be refiled in the current legislative long session is the third bill to pass into law without Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature.
In March, Cooper let a bill raising penalties for rioting and civil disorder and another addressing hotel safety concerns become law without his signature. Cooper had vetoed both bills in the previous 2021-22 short session.
Cooper in a statement said the bill attacked the State Board of Education by putting “partisan appointees of the legislature” in charge of the schools.
“In addition, Republican legislators have put forth other proposals that encourage politics to interfere with public school curriculums, and I urge them to stop these efforts that lead to controversial book bans, rewriting history, erasing science and other obstacles to student learning,” he added.
House Bill 11, Schools for the Deaf and Blind, will create a new board of trustees for each of the schools and will oversee their governance.
The schools in the bill are the Governor Morehead School for the Blind, established in Raleigh in 1845; the North Carolina School for the Deaf, which opened in Morganton in 1894; and the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf which opened in 1964.
The boards of trustees would have four-year staggered terms. The boards would include five members with two appointed upon the recommendation of the speaker of the House of Representatives, and two upon the recommendation of the president pro tempore of the Senate. The State Board of Education would appoint the fifth member.
Additionally, ex officio nonvoting members would include the president of the respective alumni associations and a member appointed by the secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
House Bill 11 also sets up an admissions process for the schools and a transition process for the schools to governance by the new boards of trustees beginning in 2024-25. The schools would be administratively housed within the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and would get the same support as other schools, but the schools would operate independently under its board of trustees.
A veto had been anticipated after Cooper formed a governance board designed to challenge control over the UNC system appointments and he had already vetoed a similar bill, Senate Bill 593, last session.
The governor objected to a single part of Senate Bill 593; the creation of a dedicated board of trustees for the school.
“Not only is this bill blatantly unconstitutional, it continues this legislature’s push to give more control of education to Boards of Trustees made up of partisan political appointees. First the legislature seized control of all UNC system trustee appointments from the Executive Branch. They did the same with two of the state’s community college boards,” Cooper wrote in his veto statement of Senate Bill 593.
Legislators did not undertake a veto override attempt despite being urged to do so in a letter from State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
“[Cooper’s] rationale had nothing to do with the merits of the bill but was instead about the appointments process,” Truitt wrote in her letter to Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain).
Had Cooper vetoed House Bill 11, it likely would have handed the governor the second veto override of the session due to Democrats in both chambers voting to approve the bill.
The bill passed the House on March 1 by a vote of 71-45. Three Democrats voted in favor of the bill — Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg), Garland Pierce (D-Scotland), and Michael Wray (D-Northampton). On March 21, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 29-17. Two Democrats voted with their Republican colleagues to pass the bill — Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) and Sen. Mike Woodard (D-Durham).