More than 100 bills have been filed in NC so far this session. These stand out
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After a somewhat slow start, things quickly picked up on Jones Street this week, as a number of significant bills were filed (many of them new or similar versions of legislation that stalled last year), and committee rooms filled again with lawmakers, reporters and members of the public.
As of Thursday evening, 50 bills had been filed in the House, and 67 had been filed in the Senate. Hundreds more will follow as we get deeper into the session.
But multiple bills already stand out, and some have moved quickly through committees and could be considered on the floor as early as next week.
‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’
On Tuesday, Republicans in the Senate revived a controversial bill they proposed last summer, the Parents’ Bill of Rights. The bill passed the Senate last year, but wasn’t taken up in the House. A new version of the bill is back in the Senate now, where it was introduced and approved by two committees this week.
The new bill would ban the topics of gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality from the curriculum in kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms. It also would require schools in most circumstances to notify parents if their children change the pronouns by which the school refers to them.
The bill also enumerates a number of parental rights, as long as they comply with other state laws. Those rights include the right to “consent or withhold consent for participation in reproductive health and safety education programs,” and the right to “the right to inspect and purchase public school unit textbooks and other supplementary instructional materials.”
Having passed the Senate Education and Health Care committees, the bill now heads to the Rules Committee, which could approve it and send it to the Senate floor.
Ban on gender-affirming treatment for minors
A bill filed in the House on Wednesday would prohibit medical professionals from providing minors with hormones or gender-affirming treatment, including surgeries like vasectomies, hysterectomies and mastectomies, or medications that block puberty.
If it became law, doctors and other medical personnel who violate the bill’s provisions could have their licenses revoked and would be subject to a $1,000 civil penalty.
The bill has yet to be referred to a committee. One of its sponsors, Rep. Bill Ward, said he wasn’t sure what the bill’s prospects were of advancing through the House and Senate, and saying, “There’s been been a lot of discussion, but we’ll just have to wait till, to see till it gets to the floor.”
Senate files CON repeal bill
Meanwhile, in the Senate, a group of lawmakers filed a bill that might signal that differences persist between the House and Senate on Medicaid expansion.
Senate Bill 48 would repeal North Carolina’s Certificate of Need law, which requires health care providers to get state approval before they can build new health care facilities and purchase new medical equipment.
Whether or not to include revisions or a repeal of the CON law emerged as a major sticking point between House and Senate GOP leaders last year as they tried to negotiate a deal to pass Medicaid expansion. The introduction of a CON repeal bill in the Senate indicates that at least some senators continue to think the law needs to be removed.
Tougher penalties for damaging substations
After two electrical substations in Moore County were damaged by gunfire in December, cutting power to nearly 45,000 households and businesses, a couple of lawmakers said they want to take a look at existing law and examine whether it was sufficient to adequately punish people for interfering with vital infrastructure.
On Wednesday, a group of Senate Republicans introduced a bill to beef up penalties in state law for damaging substations and other electrical and energy facilities. Under the bill, damaging one of these facilities could result in a prison sentence of up to around 10 years, and a $250,000 fine.
Removal of literacy test from constitution
The literacy test that remains in North Carolina’s constitution should be removed, GOP Senate leader Phil Berger told reporters this week, and on Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House filed a constitutional amendment that would do that.
Federal law has rendered the test unenforceable since the mid-1960s, but lawmakers from both parties seem to agree that it’s time to remove what one of the bill sponsors has called an “offensive provision” from the state constitution.
Anti-riot bill is revived in the House
House Speaker Tim Moore reintroduced a controversial bill to punish rioting as a felony this week. The bill is identical to one Moore proposed in 2021, which passed both chambers but was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Republicans didn’t try to override Cooper’s veto last time, but now they’re just one vote shy of being able to do so. That gap could be bridged by Rep. Shelly Willingham, a Democrat who has said he would be open to voting with Republicans on veto overrides if he agrees with the bill they’re trying to pass.
Willingham signed onto the bill Moore introduced this week as a primary sponsor, and told us he would support it in an override vote if such a situation arises again this year.
Republicans file gun bills again
Two other bills filed in the Senate this week deal with existing gun regulations that Republicans tried to loosen during the 2021-22 legislative session.
Cooper vetoed both bills. One would repeal the state’s requirement that anyone buying a handgun first obtain a permit from their local sheriff’s office. The other would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring their guns to protect themselves at religious services held on school grounds.
Sen. Danny Britt, one of the primary sponsors behind both bills, said this week he was confident both bills would be approved by the legislature. Britt went on to express confidence that if Cooper vetoes the bills again, Republicans will be able to override his veto.
In order to do that, Republicans would need all of their members in the Senate to vote for the bill, and would need all of their members in the House to do so as well, in addition to one House Democrat.
Absences in the House could change that math for Republicans, but multiple Democrats voted in favor of these bills last time, and Britt said he believed that would happen again.
Thanks for reading. See you next week. In the meantime, tune into our stories, our tweets and our Under the Dome podcast for more developments.
— By Avi Bajpai, reporter for The News & Observer. Email me at email@example.com.