On Tuesday a bill limiting the North Carolina governor’s emergency powers moved through the NC House Judiciary I Committee. HB 264, which would require emergency declarations to be approved by the Council of State within 30 days, now goes to the House Rules Committee before going to the full House for a vote. Support for the bill is split along party lines, with Republicans, who have repeatedly fought against Governor Cooper’s COVID-19 emergency declarations, backing the bill and Democrats expressing skepticism about the necessity of such a bill. SB 312, a similar bill, was filed in the Senate on Tuesday.
On Thursday NC Senate Republicans filed a bill that would stop the collection of absentee ballots at 5 PM on Election Day, no matter when those ballots were mailed. This would further restrict the collection of absentee ballots, which currently can be collected for three days following an election if they are postmarked by Election Day. SB 326 also requires voters wishing to cast an absentee ballot to submit a request form by 5 PM the Tuesday two weeks before the election, with exceptions for voters who become sick or disabled in the weeks before Election Day.
On Tuesday HB 220 cleared the NC House Energy and Public Utilities Committee. The bill would prohibit local governments from banning specific energy sources, such as natural gas. The natural gas industry has been pushing similar bills in multiple other states.
On Monday NC Senate Republicans filed a bill that would reclassify participation in a riot from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class H felony. The bill, SB 300, does not further clarify the existing vague definition of rioting in NC law, raising concerns among advocates of civil liberties that it could chill peaceful democratic protest and further exacerbate racial discrimination in the criminal justice system’s treatment of protestors. SB 300 also includes provisions for the creation of databases to track officers’ use of force and citizen complaints against officers, as well as new training opportunities for officers.