Cooper signs seven bills, vetoes two and allows the state budget to become law
Among those he signed into law include H.B.125 NC Health & Human Services Workforce Act, H.B.142 Protect Our Students Act.-AB, S.B. 211 Permit Multistate Water/Sewer Authority, S.B. 579 Prevent Harm to Children, S.B. 477 Amend Bus. Corp. Act/Bus. Opp. Disclosures, S.B. 531 Dam Safety Law Clarification, and H.B. 8 Various Statutory Changes.
H.B. 125 includes a “military relocation license” provision for physicians and physicians assistants who are service members or military spouses. It also allows a license for hospital doctors who are internationally trained. A military-affiliated doctors would be required to hold a current license in another jurisdiction that has equivalent licensure requirements, with no disciplinary actions within 5 years. They also must have actively practiced medicine an average of 20 hours per week for the last two years.
For those doctors trained internationally, they must have met all U.S. training and licensure requirements, other than an US. residency; have a license in good standing from another country with no disciplinary action; be proficient in English and have already been offered a job as a physician in a rural North Carolina hospital or in a medical practice under the supervision of a licensed physician.
H.B.125 also increases the penalty for violating a protective order issued by request of a hospital and increases the penalty for assault on medical personnel, or on the property of a hospital. It passed the Senate unanimously 107-3 in the House with three Democrats voting against it.
On H.B. 8, eight House Dems voted no. It requires age verification for pornographic websites, but also contains a provision that adds a computer science requirement to graduate from high school.
“Coding and technology skills are needed in nearly every industry today and adding a computer science requirement for high school graduation will help ensure students are better prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Cooper said in a press release about H.B. 8. “The age verification requirements to help protect children from online pornography are also important. However, the changes to the university and community college accreditation process are onerous and will add an unnecessary burden and increase costs for our public higher education institutions.”
Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, advocated for the provision in House Bill 8 requiring age-verification software.
“A cell phone in a child’s hand can be a portal into the most sexually graphic and violent content imaginable,” she said. “We need safeguards to protect children from accessing inappropriate and harmful material online. Requiring age verification for pornography sites is a simple but effective way we can keep minors from accessing such content. This is a good provision and data from other states shows it will work.”
S.B. 531 had 13 House Democrats voting against it, while the others were near-unanimous.
He also vetoed H.B. 600 the Regulatory Reform Act of 2023, calling it “…a hodgepodge of bad provisions that will result in dirtier water, discriminatory permitting, and threats to North Carolina’s environment.”
“It also undoes a significant policy to promote fairness in state contracting for historically underutilized businesses as it blocks efforts to encourage diverse suppliers for state purchases, rules that would save taxpayer dollars and help businesses grow. The rules mirror the successful approach used for 18 years in state construction contracting, and they were enacted with extensive feedback from state agencies and vendors and they were approved by the Rules Review Commission, which has all of its members appointed by the Republican controlled legislature.”
Designed to help pave the way for more investment in nuclear energy in North Carolina, something experts say is the most efficient energy resource available, the Clean Energy Act had all Senate Republicans and one Democrat voting in favor. In the House, it passed 66 to 36 with support from nine Democrats and all Republicans but one.
The measure would have relabeled “renewable energy resources” as “clean energy resources” in the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and add nuclear fission and fusion into the definition of clean energy. It would make nuclear energy a viable option for replacing coal-fired power plants with new, cleaner sources. The bill also extends closure deadlines for certain coal-fired plants.
“North Carolina is on a bipartisan path to removing carbon from our electric power sector in the most cost-effective way,” he stated for his veto of S.B. 678. “This bill attempts to diverge from that path by trying to put construction of traditional power plants, and higher profits for the utility companies, over lower-cost solutions like energy efficiency. North Carolina should consider all pathways to decarbonize, rather than putting a thumb on the scale in favor of building new conventional generation.”
Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, countered his veto with the following statement:
“Gov. Cooper’s hardline opposition to nuclear power is a slap in the face to North Carolina’s energy industry,” he said. “He would rather glorify the Green New Deal than strengthen energy production in our state. I look forward to overriding his veto and ensuring that North Carolina can have a reliable electrical grid.”
In addition to allowing the budget to become law without his signature, he also allowed H.B. 361 Require Report/Protection & Advocacy Agency. and S.B. 452 DOI & Ins Law Amd/Revise HS Athletics. to do the same.
Cooper did, however, make a statement about S.B. 452, which shifted oversight of high school athletics in North Carolina from the State Board of Education to an independent board appointed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The change follows extended conflict last year between the NC High School Athletics Association and lawmakers who investigated the group’s $41 million in assets funded in part by local public schools.
“This legislation includes important auto insurance changes that will help provide more protection for North Carolina motorists,” he said. “However, the late-night changes to high school sports governance are a solution in search of a problem. Legislators shouldn’t insert politics into schools and sports but instead allow the bipartisan compromise approved last session to continue so students can compete fairly with the support they need.”
Another person not happy with S.B. 452 was NC Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.
He told Carolina Journal last week that he was upset about the insertion of the change of oversight of the NCHSAA into his agency bill.
“The legislators stick things in without asking us anything about it, they stick in their pet project,” he said. “I guess they needed a vehicle to put language when they’re trying to get something passed. But, it’s just common courtesy to talk to the agency head and say this is what we need, would you have any objection or would it be all right, but we don’t get any of that.”
Causey was also stripped of his role as state fire marshal in the budget.
It is likely the vetoes will be overridden by the Republican supermajority in the General Assembly. So far this year lawmakers have overridden 14 vetoes.