Updated: Jun 13
On Tuesday the NC Senate passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would change the way Wake County commissioners are elected. HB 99 will shift the Wake County Board of Commissioners to district-based elections from county-wide elections and add two at-large seats. District-based representation makes it more likely that Republicans will be elected to the Board (currently, all 7 seats are occupied by Democrats). Since it is a local bill, HB 99 does not need Governor Cooper’s signature.
On Tuesday Democrats in the NC Senate filed a bill that would require a state legislator who switches parties to face a special election. The sponsors filed the bill in response to Rep. Tricia Cotham’s switch to the Republican party a few months ago. Her constituents and the Democratic party saw her switch as a complete betrayal, but they had no recourse to remove her from her seat in response.
On Thursday Governor Cooper announced that North Carolina will allocate $3 million to TeachNC, a nonprofit that helps people who are seeking to become licensed teachers. The money will go toward covering costs of licensure exams and exam preparation, with the intention of addressing NC’s shortage of 5,000 teachers and bringing more people of color into the profession.
On Wednesday the NC House Education Committee approved a Republican-sponsored bill that would require 10th graders to learn about the costs of attending four-year college programs, community college programs, and trade schools. They would also study how much people with different degrees make on average in different parts of the state. Sponsors of the bill cited job openings in well-paid trade fields and increases in college loan debt as their rationale for the bill.
On Thursday the NC Senate passed a bill that would allow American Indian students to wear “objects of cultural significance,” such as feathers or plumes, to their graduation ceremonies. The bill, co-sponsored by Lumbee tribe member Rep. Jarrod Lowery of Robeson County, addresses inconsistent practices in schools, some of which have said that feathers or plumes violate dress codes.
On Tuesday the NC Senate passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would prevent state employers, including universities, from asking job candidates about their political beliefs. SB 364, a reaction against diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, would stop practices such as asking job candidates to submit diversity statements. It now goes to Governor Cooper for his signature.
On Wednesday the NC House passed a bipartisan bill legalizing sports betting. HB 347, which would allow gambling on sports on mobile devices and certain in-person sports venues, is expected to be signed by Governor Cooper, and would go into effect as early as January. In the final debate over the bill, some lawmakers objected to changes added to the bill by the NC Senate, including allowing horse racing and removing a limit on college sports betting for 8 hours prior to the event.
On Wednesday the NC House passed the biannual Farm Act. SB 582 has drawn scrutiny recently because it would not allow the state to adopt more stringent wetland protections than the federal government. That provision, in combination with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, would open millions of acres of formerly protected wetlands in North Carolina to development. Environmental advocates have objected to the bill because wetlands are crucial to flood resiliency and absorb pollution, improving water quality. The bill now goes back to the Senate.
Health Care Policy
A provision included in the recent bill banning abortion after 12 weeks in North Carolina will allow nurse midwives to practice without physician supervision. Midwives had long lobbied the state legislature to remove the physician supervision requirement, though they had not asked for the provision to be included in SB 20 and were surprised to see it slipped into the bill. North Carolina was one of only three states to require supervision of certified nurse-midwives, and advocates had called for ending the practice because that supervision sometimes required experienced midwives to pay large sums for oversight that amounted to little more than a few meetings per year.
Gun Violence Prevention
On Monday Governor Cooper announced a statewide initiative to promote safe firearm storage. The NC S.A.F.E. (Secure All Firearms Effectively) initiative includes a public awareness program and the distribution of 25,000 cable gun locks. The initiative will be funded by leftover money from the previous year’s budget.
On Thursday the NC Senate unanimously passed a bill that would allow cities to hire civilians to investigate minor traffic accidents that do not involve an injury. HB 140 would require civilian traffic investigators to undergo a training program and then shadow a police officer for four weeks. They would wear a different uniform, not carry a sidearm, and not be allowed to issue citations or arrest people.