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Veto override challenges unlikely this week

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(The Center Square) – Both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly convened briefly on Monday without action, while a slew of unfinished business awaits in the waning weeks of the long session.

No votes are expected in either chamber this week, though veto override votes could come next week.

Five bills vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper in the first week of July are expected to be challenged. These could impact school athletics, education, building codes and gender transitions for minors.

Among the most controversial are House Bill 808 to prohibit gender transition surgeries and drugs for children; the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act to restrict college and high school sports to biological gender at birth; and a Parents’ Bill of Rights that limits LGBTQ+ instruction in early grades while increasing public school transparency.

Republicans hold supermajorities in the General Assembly that can override Cooper, who described the bills as “a triple threat of political culture wars.” Republicans have reversed all 31 vetoes by the Democratic governor when they’ve held the requisite three-fifths majority, but went 0-for-13 when they didn’t between midterm elections of 2018 and 2022.

Other bills likely to get veto override challenges involve a move to shift decisions about charter schools to a Charter School Review Board, and the reorganization of the state Building Code Council and creation of a Residential Code Council.

Lawmakers are also expected to take up additional changes to education regulations in Senate Bill 90. The bill on student searches was amended last week to provide a route to take action if parents feel a superintendent is violating their rights to raise and educate their children.

The changes, which have riled supporters of traditional public education, could impact a superintendent’s employment or pay. Other impacts involve access to libraries, extracurricular activities, mental health services, books and instructional materials.

The state budget was due for the start of the fiscal year on July 1; it is yet to be done. Negotiations could take until August, lawmakers have said. Chamber leaders are continuing negotiations on potential accelerated tax cuts, further gambling legalization, and other elements of the financial package.

Still other big ticket items that remain include a bill to liberalize the state’s notoriously strict Alcohol and Beverage Control regulations, and two bills aimed at improving public confidence in elections.

The latter faces strong resistance from Democrats in general and Cooper in particular; they say Republicans are working to “ignore voters and rig elections.”

No Partisan Advantage in Elections would increase the five-member state board to eight members, with appointments split evenly between party leaders in both chambers of the General Assembly. The bill would also reduce county boards to four members, using the same appointment process.

Bill sponsors contend the new system will require bipartisan cooperation while doing away with the partisan five-member boards controlled by the governor. They’ve cited recent polls that show roughly half of North Carolinians do not believe the next election will be free and fair.

Election law changes in SB747 include the elimination of the three-day grace period for absentee ballots – meaning all ballots get to the tabulators on or before Election Day – to align North Carolina with more than 30 states. Early voting doesn’t require a reason to request, and ballots can be accessed more than a month before due.

Other changes would ban private funding in elections; remove noncitizens from voter rolls; permit public inspection of absentee ballots; increase retention of election records; strengthen voter verification for same-day ballots; and create two-factor authentication for absentee ballots by mail.

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