RALEIGH — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed four bills – one on Friday and three more Monday, bringing his total to 81 in seven years.
The veto on Friday concerned a bill that would bar compelled speech in state hiring practices and in the workplace.
“In North Carolina, the diversity of our people is a strength. This legislation attempts to eliminate training that can help us understand the unconscious bias we all bring to our work and our communities,” Cooper wrote in his veto message. “It is troubling that a legislature that witnessed open racism on the floor of the House of Representatives wants to stop training aimed at creating a more effective and understanding workforce. Instead of pretending that bias and racism don’t exist, the legislature should instead encourage training that can help eliminate discrimination so we can work toward common goals.”
Senate Bill 364, titled Nondiscrimination and Dignity in State Work, passed both chambers with veto-proof margins.
“Governor Cooper’s veto does nothing to promote nondiscrimination and equality,” Sen. Warren Daneil (R-Burke), a primary sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “State employees should not have to worry about having to endorse a certain set of beliefs or ideals in order to apply for or keep their job.”
Daniel also said the bill was a “common sense” way to protect the First Amendment rights of employees and ensure workplace trainings don’t promote discriminatory concepts.
“I look forward to overriding his veto,” Daniel said.
Daniel’s statement was tweeted by Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir), who said he was proud to stand with Daniel and that employees should not “be forced to swear fealty to any governor’s ideological views.”
On May 31, the House passed the measure by a vote of 72-46 with no Democrats supporting the bill.
The Senate voted on June 6 in a concurrence vote of 30-15. Despite the vote being mainly down party lines, three Democrats Sens. Sydney Batch (D-Wake), Marry Wills Bode (D-Wake) and Kandie Smith (D-Pitt), voted to concur.
The bill would prohibit any state agency, department or institution from compelling or soliciting an applicant for employment to “endorse or opine about beliefs, affiliations, ideals, or principles regarding matters of contemporary political debate or social action as a condition of employment.”
State agencies would be barred from requiring or compelling an applicant to show proof of support or opposition to any given topic would also be prohibited. Anyone wishing to offer their beliefs voluntarily can do so under the bill.
Senate Bill 364 also prohibits promotion of 13 concepts such as one race or sex is inherently superior to another and that an individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, as well as the belief that character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.
Some of the 13 concepts have been linked to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies or training as well as the controversial Critical Race Theory.
On Monday, June 19, Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 331 (Consumer Finance Act Amendments), Senate Bill 329 (Retail Installment Sales Act Amendments) and Senate Bill 299 (Reimburse Late Audit Costs with Sales Tax Rev.).
“At a time when the cost of living is rising, North Carolina consumers cannot afford to be hit with higher fees and interest rates on loans,” Cooper wrote in his veto of Senate Bill 331.
On Senate Bill 339, the governor’s veto message was similar to that of 331, citing the “rising cost of living.”
“At a time when the cost of living is rising, North Carolina consumers cannot afford to be hit with higher fees and interest rates on loans and purchases,” wrote Cooper in his veto of Senate Bill 339.
Senate Bill 299 garnered the governor’s longest veto message.
“It is important that local governments follow the law on auditing their finances in order to foster accountability and fiscal responsibility. While well intentioned, this legislation as written is likely to punish residents of some of our state’s smallest communities,” Cooper wrote. “Rather than having state government seize sales taxes that are needed for local government, the North Carolina General Assembly should reconsider this legislation and provide more help for these communities to make sure they do it right rather than impose financial punishment that could make matters worse.”
The four governors with veto power preceding Cooper had a combined total of 53 vetoes among them. Cooper’s 81st veto means he holds 70% of all vetoes issued by a North Carolina governor to date.
Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, making successful override votes of the governor’s vetoes a likely bet.
The latter bill seeks to protect energy and water infrastructure sites after several substations were attacked in 2022. The bill received unanimous approval in both chambers of the General Assembly.
“We must protect critical infrastructure that keeps electric power and clean water available in our communities, and this bill sends a message to criminals that these irresponsible acts will not be tolerated,” Cooper said of Senate Bill 58.