A group of House Republicans is pushing to inspect North Carolina voting machines. Citing worries from constituents about voter fraud, the “Freedom Caucus” has asked to access voting equipment and software, claiming they want to “reassure” their constituents that nothing is amiss with the machines. The lawmakers were denied access to the machines by Karen Brinson Bell, North Carolina’s Elections Director, because such access would violate state laws and federal guidelines that restrict who can access elections infrastructure.
Education Policy and Economic Policy
In a Wednesday news conference, Senate leader Phil Berger announced that the Senate will propose an anti-affirmative-action constitutional amendment. The amendment uses language from a similar California ballot initiative in 1996 that banned affirmative action: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, an individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.” The proposed amendment would appear on the next primary ballot and, if passed, is expected to significantly impact the number of underrepresented minority students attending the University of North Carolina as well as the percentage of state contracts awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses.
During the same news conference, Berger also promoted a new bill that would ban North Carolina public schools from “promoting the idea that one race or gender is inherently superior to another and that someone is inherently racist or sexist because of their race or gender.” Berger spoke against “indoctrinating students” with critical race theory, even though critical race theory is not taught in any K-12 schools. The bill would be the NC Senate version of an anti-critical-race-theory bill already passed by the NC House (HB 324).
The NC House passed a complex energy bill during a midnight session Wednesday night. The bill, HB 951, would set energy policy in North Carolina for the next few decades, and in addition to falling short of climate change targets advocated for by environmentalists, it contains controversial provisions that would take power away from the NC Utilities Commission, limit the state’s ability to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and potentially significantly raise electricity rates. All but two Democrats voted against the bill, meaning that an expected veto from Governor Cooper would likely be sustained. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
A criminal justice reform bill that previously included changes to the rules governing release of body camera footage has dropped those measures. In earlier iterations, SB 300 would have mandated the release of body camera footage upon request to families of those shot by police, a reform from the current law that requires families to receive approval from a judge to gain access to the footage. Despite passing the NC Senate unanimously with those reforms intact in May, the bill’s language was changed in response to law enforcement pressure before it began its process through the House this week. After a discussion in committee, the body camera language was stripped completely from the bill, meaning that current rules would stay in place if the bill passed without further changes.