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Vetoes involving roadside billboards, delinquent juveniles overturned

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(The Center Square) – Two unrelated vetoes involving roadside billboards and defining delinquent juveniles, along with a campaign finance and mask veto, were overturned into law by the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday.

Changes to tree cutting around billboards sought by the governor-appointed secretary of the Department of Transportation were at the heart of DOT Legislative Changes, also known as House Bill 198. Juvenile Justice Modifications, or House Bill 834, modifies the definition of delinquent juvenile and process for transferring cases for trial as adults.

Both became law effective immediately, as did a third veto override on the day involving campaign finance and people wearing masks in public.

Passage on the billboard veto was 74-42 in the House on Wednesday night and 30-14 in the Senate on Thursday afternoon. Passage on the juvenile veto was 70-46 in the House on Wednesday night and 30-14 in the Senate on Thursday afternoon.

Democrats Cecil Brockman of Guilford County, Carla Cunningham of Mecklenburg County, Shelly Willingham of Edgecombe County and Michael Wray of Northampton County were for the billboard veto and no Republicans were against it. Party line votes were in order for the juvenile veto.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, in office since Jan. 1, 2017, has vetoed 97 bills. All 45 attempts have been successful for override when Republicans have three-fifths majority – the state law minimum – in each chamber. The Grand Old Party is 22-for-22 since the two-year session commenced in January 2023.

DOT Legislative Changes.-AB got a House clerk’s stamp of receipt on Feb. 23, about two weeks after Cooper’s executive order Feb. 12 setting “comprehensive goals for restoring and protecting natural areas, prioritizing native plants and planting 1 million trees.”

The legislation’s leaders, Sens. Michael Lazzara, Tom McInnis and Vickie Sawyer of the chamber’s Transportation Committee, said Transportation Secretary Joey Hopkins “helped put together” the changes. Language in the bill says recommendations were made by the Transportation Department.

The juvenile delinquent law involves 16- and 17-year-olds accused of serious crimes. Cooper said it runs afoul of the 5-year-old Raise the Age law. Automatic prosecution in adult court and teen mistakes sticking for a lifetime were benefits of that law, supporters said. Resources and protection of criminal records were other pluses.

Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson led the push for the law. He said high-level felonies headed to adult court anyway are clogging the system. He also supported, and still does, the Raise the Age law. A former prosecutor himself, as is Cooper, Britt is seeking efficiency in the justice system.

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