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Political Notebook: Gov. Cooper vetoes bills supported by Rowan County lawmakers

RALEIGH — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper last week vetoed a handful of bills supported and sponsored by Rowan County’s Republican lawmakers.

Both Rep. Harry Warren, who represents a portion of Rowan County, and Rep. Wayne Sasser, who represents portions of Rowan, Stanly and Cabarrus counties, signed on as sponsors of House Bill 805, which aims to “prevent rioting and civil disorder.” The bill increases some penalties for current offenses and for assaults on emergency personnel, and it creates new offenses related to rioting. The bill also authorizes civil action for injuries to people or property as a result of rioting or looting during an emergency and creates requirements for bail and pretrial release for those charged with such offenses.

Under the bill, willfully engaging in or inciting a riot would be a misdemeanor. Engaging in or inciting a riot that leads to property damage of $1,500 or more or with a weapon in hand becomes a class H felony. Assaults on emergency personnel would be felonies.

“People who commit crimes during riots and at other times should be prosecuted and our laws provide for that,” Cooper said in his veto message. “But this legislation is unnecessary and is intended to intimidate and deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peacefully protest.”

H.B. 805 gained support from a handful of Democrats and all Republicans.

Cooper also vetoed H.B. 324, which seeks to prohibit public school districts from promoting certain concepts deemed contrary to the equality and rights of all students. The name of the bill, “Ensuring Dignity and Nondiscrimination in Schools,” is described by Republicans as a measure to deter teaching critical race theory concepts in the classroom. Among the concepts that are prohibited in the bill are teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another, that an individual is inherently racist or sexist or oppressive based on their race or sex, that any individual should feel discomfort, guilt or anguish for their race or sex or that any meritocracy or form of government is racist or sexist. Additionally, it would prohibit concepts that “promote” overthrowing the U.S. government, the idea that all Americans are not created equal and that the rule of law doesn’t exist.

Warren, Sasser and Sen. Carl Ford voted in support of the bill. Ford represents Rowan and Stanly counties.

In his veto message, Cooper said lawmakers should be focused on supporting teachers, helping students recover lost learning and investing in the state’s public schools.

“Instead, this bill pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education,” he said.

No Democrats voted in support of H.B. 324.

Ford signed on to support Senate Bill 636, which protects the identity of those who donate money or tangible goods to nonprofit organizations for furthering the nonprofit’s purpose. The bill, called the “Donor Privacy Act,” would allow a contributor’s identity to be confidential under the public records law if they notify the organization before making the donation, while excluding anonymity for required campaign finance disclosures.

Cooper called the legislation unnecessary and said it could limit transparency with political contributions. Only one Democrat voted in support of the bill.

H.B. 398 would repeal the current requirement to obtain a pistol purchase permit from the sheriff’s office before purchasing or transferring a pistol. Two Democrats voted in support.

“Gun permit laws reduce gun homicides and suicides and reduce the availability of guns for criminal activity,” Cooper said. “At a time of rising gun violence, we cannot afford to repeal a system that works to save lives. The legislature should focus on combating gun violence instead of making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands.”

H.B. 352 would clarify the current state law to reflect that lodging in an inn, hotel, motel, recreational vehicle park or campground for fewer than 90 days does not create tenancy. All of Rowan County’s lawmakers voted in support, with several Democrats also in support.

Cooper said the legislation isn’t the right way to ensure safety in hotels because it removes legal protections and allows for unnecessary harm to vulnerable people and families who have turned to such places for housing in a time of need.

Rowan County lawmakers did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.

Public comment sessions ahead of statewide redistricting scheduled in neighboring counties

RALEIGH — Members of the North Carolina House last week began a monthlong tour of public comment sessions across the state before the redistricting and map drawing process begins.

The plan includes a public hearing session in each of the state’s Congressional districts at local colleges. The entirety of Rowan County is part of the 13th congressional district, along with Alamance, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Person and Randolph counties. The district also includes parts of Guilford, Iredell and Chatham counties.

Sessions in or near the state’s 13th Congressional district include:

Sept. 16: Alamance Community College, 5 p.m.

Sept. 22: Central Piedmont Community College, 3 p.m.

Sept. 23: Mitchell Community College (Iredell County campus), 3 p.m.

To register for public comment for these sessions, visit ncleg.gov and click on the “speaker registration” links next to the scheduled session.

“We are committed to an open and transparent process, which starts with hearing from the constituencies of all 13 current Congressional districts,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Destin Hall, R-Caldwell. “In addition to these four weeks, we have already had over a month of public comment on our online portal, resulting in an unprecedented amount of public input.”

The online portal can be found by visiting ncleg.gov/Redistricting.

Following each U.S. Census, the North Carolina General Assembly is tasked with redrawing the state’s congressional districts to reflect population changes. Census 2020 data released in April show North Carolina’s population growth has resulted in an additional Congressional district. The number of seats each state is granted in Congress also determines the number of electoral votes each state gets during a national election. States receive an electoral vote for each of its two senators and then one additional vote for each representative.

On average, each representative in the U.S. House represents more than 700,000 Americans. In North Carolina, 2020 Census data estimates that nearly 747,000 North Carolinians are represented in each congressional district.

North Carolina is no stranger to legal battles related to redistricting. In May 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the state’s appeal of a U.S. District Court’s ruling that struck down two of the state’s congressional district maps as racial gerrymandering, ultimately ruling to uphold the district court’s finding that districts 1 and 12 constituted racial gerrymandering. Racial gerrymandering is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican that represents Rowan and Stanly counties, and Rep. Harry Warren, another Republican representing Rowan County, are member of their respective chambers’ redistricting committees.

Gov. Cooper signs legislation limiting shackling of pregnant women while incarcerated

RALEIGH — Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law the “Dignity for Women Who Are Incarcerated Act,” which provides additional protections for people who are pregnant while incarcerated in North Carolina.

House Bill 608 limits the shackling of pregnant women from the second trimester of pregnancy until six weeks post-partum and also ensures infants have proper medical and parental care before and after birth. It also includes provisions for pregnancy-specific nutritional requirements, allowing maternal-infant bonding, limited body cavity searches and access to menstrual products.

The bill was primarily sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators, including Reps. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus County), Ashton Wheeler Clemmons (D-Guilford County), Donna McDowell White (R-Johnston County) and Kyle Hall, a Republican representing Rockingham, Stokes and Surry counties. At least 70 other state lawmakers signed on to sponsor the bill, which passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

North Carolina joins 34 other states that restrict the shackling of pregnant people, including Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, West Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana.

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