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Republicans: Veto override levels campaign finance playing field

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(The Center Square) – Republicans in North Carolina say they evened the playing field of national political parties on campaign finance following Thursday’s override of a gubernatorial veto.

Capturing attention originally because lawmakers wanted to return use of masks in public to prepandemic rules, the contentious journey of House Bill 237 included Senate Democrats walking out rather than voting two weeks ago.

The law is effective immeidately. Passage was 70-46 in the House of Representatives on Wednesday night and 30-14 in the Senate on Thursday afternoon. In each chamber, no Democrats were in favor and no Republicans against.

The change allows the 527 organizations, named because of the associated tax code, to donate to state political parties. Those respective parties can take in unlimited donations and give unlimited amounts to their candidates.

Gubernatorial races of 2016 and 2020 – respectively, Gov. Roy Cooper over incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory by 10,277 votes from more than 4.7 million cast, and Cooper over Dan Forest by 248,185 of more than 5.4 million cast – were contested with different rules.

Democrats had access to more money coming because the Democratic Governors Association had a regular political action committee while the Republican Governors Association did not. Both parties’ super political action committees could not contribute to state parties directly, and their regular political action committees could.

The new law clarifies language on definitions of the political committees. And, the Republican Governors Association super political action committee can contribute like it did before 2020.

The governor’s race between Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is expected to be record-setting, and possibly the most expensive in the country in this cycle. Recent polling has the candidates in a statistical dead heat, within the margin of error regardless of either leading the other.

The mask part of the legislation, which first drew ire before campaign finance was even in the proposal, involves law dating back 71 years to activity by the Ku Klux Klan. When the COVID-19 era came, lawmakers agreed to a change that corresponded to recommendations of federal and state health officials led then by Health Secretary Mandy Cohen. She’s since left to be director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When first filed 15 months ago, the proposal only included language on criminalizing money laundering, and enhancing sentence when convictions involved a defendant “wearing a mask, hood, or other clothing device to conceal or attempt to conceal the defendant’s identity.” Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, and the sides have fought since sparking protests and demonstrations.

Because many protestors have covered their faces, lawmakers wanted to address the problem for law enforcement with an eye on justice for victims. Language in the law was adjusted for valid health concerns on rights of immunocompromised people and their families.

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