RALEIGH — Settling into his chair, House Rules and Operations Committee Chair Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) smiled slightly when North State Journal asked what word or phrase might sum up the current legislative session.
“I would say a lot in a short amount of time,” said Hall, who is an attorney by trade with Wilson, Lackey, Rohr & Hall, P.C. located in Lenoir.
“You know, we finally have super majorities again after a couple of terms of not being able to override the governor,” Hall said. “And our members had a lot of goals that we wanted to accomplish that we were not able to accomplish in those two terms when (Gov. Roy) Cooper had the ability to veto without being overridden.”
Hall went on to say there were a lot of things they wanted to get done and that they had accomplished a lot of those things and lawmakers were still working on some of them.
“Well, you know, first – I’ll say I’ve dealt with a lot of the important bills this time around – both my bills and other members,” Hall said when asked which bills were a priority to him or his caucus.
“From a personal standpoint, the ICE bill. You know, making sure sheriffs cooperate with ICE – that’s something that I have been working on now for… this is term three that I’ve been working on that bill,” said Hall. “We’ve passed it and sent it to the governor two times and he’s been able to veto it and we haven’t been able to override it, but I am confident that this session we’re going to be able to override his inevitable veto.”
The specific bill referred to by Hall is House Bill 10; Require sheriffs to cooperate with ICE, which stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill passed the House in March mainly down partisan lines and currently sits in the Senate’s Rules and Operations Committee. Three House Democrats voted in favor of its passage; Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford), Rep. Michael Wray (D-Northampton), and Rep. Tricia Cotham, the former Mecklenburg Democrat who switched parties to Republican in April of this year.
Hall added that the ICE cooperation bill deals with individuals who are in the country illegally but have also been charged with a crime in North Carolina. He noted that the bill was necessary due to sheriffs in a small number of counties who are “simply not even talking to law enforcement at all” regarding those individuals here illegally.
When asked about the “big bills” passed this session, Hall named a few he felt were “tremendously consequential.”
“Number one has to be the pro-life bill that we passed,” Hall said. “The bill is the most pro-life piece of legislation that this state has seen in probably 50 years. It was a bill that was heavily worked on and something that I think is going to make sure that North Carolina is a state with a culture of life. That’s one thing.”
Hall went on to say that his ESG bill (House Bill 750), which was vetoed by the governor and subsequently overridden, was “just the start of what I think of what we need to do on ESG.”
ESG refers to Environmental and Social Governance, which Investopedia defines as “a set of standards for a company’s behavior used by socially conscious investors to screen potential investments.”
Under the law, state entities are now prohibited from creating or using ESG criteria or economically targeted investments (ETI) requirements when making employment decisions.
“It [House Bill 750] makes sure that the Treasurer is not investing our state resources based upon some sort of woke idea of capitalism and investing in companies that do things that please the extreme left. So, that’ll that will prevent that,” Hall said.
“So, those are a couple of the big things,” said Hall, adding that the repeal of the pistol purchase permit was “a big deal” as well.
“We’ve also passed some tough-on-crime bills…The anti-rioting legislation – that was the Speaker’s bill,” said Hall. “You know, over the last few years we’ve seen these riots in downtowns like Raleigh and Charlotte and that bill really tries to tamp down on those issues. So, I would say those are probably the big ones thus far in this session.”
The riots that swept across the nation during 2020 were costly. In North Carolina, the total across the state was well over $2 million.
The new law raises the penalty for inciting a riot from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class A1 misdemeanor. Persons willfully engaging in a riot that results in property damage of $2,500 or more, or serious bodily injury, is now a Class F felony.
Two new penalties are included; a Class E felony for persons to willfully engage in a riot where a death occurs during or because of the riot, and a Class D felony where willful incitement of a riot is a contributing cause to a death occurring because of the riot.
Following the veto override on the anti-rioting bill, the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action federal lawsuit over the legislation which will take effect in December of this year.
With the budget talks still ongoing, Hall told North State Journal that the current session would not be a “marathon session” but “it’s possible that we go into August.”
“You know, the House has a number of priorities that we’re going to have to see in the budget,” said Hall. “Everybody wants to get out of session and go have a summer, but at the same time, we’re not going to throw away our principles so that we can do that. So if we have to stay here in August, then we’ll stay here in August. But I’m confident that we’ll be able to get a deal done sometime in July.”
Turning to the national stage and upcoming presidential election year, two of Hall’s colleagues – Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Majority Leader Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne) – have both endorsed the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Both Saine and Bell are considered to be potential North Carolina House Speaker candidates alongside Hall.
“Well, I’ll say this. I like Ron DeSantis a lot. I like President Trump a lot,” Hall said.
“I’ve heard from both campaigns and you know what I’m doing right now is waiting to see how this primary unfolds,” said Hall. “I think that all of the folks running should be given ample opportunity to make their case. We’re several months away right now from the first primary, and now it’s ‘wait and see’.”
Hall added that “At this point, what I can say for sure among all of the announced Republicans, is any of them would be better than Sleepy Joe Biden as president of this country.”
Hall, who was considered one of the most eligible bachelors when he first came into the legislature had some bad news for the ladies.
“Well, I don’t know if any hearts are breaking or not, but coincidentally, I got engaged last week, so I am “off the market,” as they say,” the 35-year-old Hall said with a sheepish grin when asked about his bachelor status.