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Two NC bills pass through the General Assembly, become law without governor signature

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DTH Photo Illustration. House Bill 40 and Senate Bill 53 were passed by the N.C. General Assembly without Gov. Cooper's signature.

Earlier this month, two bills became law without Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature after they passed through the North Carolina General Assembly. 

These two bills, House Bill 40 and Senate Bill 53, were both passed during the 2023 legislation cycle. In previous years, Cooper vetoed similar bills.

In a press release, Cooper said he still has worries about H.B. 40, a bill that seeks to control rioting and civil disorder, despite its changes in past months. 

"I acknowledge that changes were made to modify this legislation's effect after my veto of a similar bill last year,” he said in a press release. “Property damage and violence are already illegal and my continuing concerns about the erosion of the First Amendment and the disparate impacts on communities of color will prevent me from signing this legislation."

He also said that S.B. 53, the Hotel Safety Issues bill, may keep those in need of housing protection from receiving it.

"This bill was given broad support in the legislature, and there are potential positive modifications being discussed by legislators,” Cooper said in the press release. “However safe housing is sometimes only available from temporary shelter, such as hotels, and I remain concerned that this bill will legalize unfair treatment for those who need protection and this will prevent me from signing it."

Elizabeth Barber, senior policy counsel at the ACLU of North Carolina, said she believes the governor’s choice to not sign H.B. 40 shows his disapproval of the bill.

Joselle Torres, communications manager for Democracy North Carolina, said that because Cooper has vetoed more legislation than any other N.C. governor, some people are unsure of how strong his veto power is. She said the decision to not sign or veto legislation signals the governor's dissatisfaction with laws. 

Because the N.C. General Assembly is changing, Torres said she thinks it is harder to repeat what happened with past bills.

“I cannot speak for Governor Cooper or the lawmakers that are working with him, but what we are witnessing is that they are unwilling to hold the line on these pro-democracy issues or combat these anti-democracy issues,” she said.

Yolanda Taylor, programs attorney for Advance North Carolina, said very few changes have been made between the time of Cooper’s veto of previous legislation and his decision to not sign S.B. 53.

According to S.B. 53, until guests of a motel, hotel, campground or similar lodging have remained in the location for 90 days, they are now clarified as transient occupants instead of tenants. 

"So that means that in those days preceding that 90-day period, an innkeeper or the owner of the hotel could bring the sheriff in, and they could be immediately disposed, them and their belongings without any protections under the law," she said. 

Taylor said she believes the bill will put those seeking refuge in hotels in unsafe conditions.

She said the bill does not provide protection to many people who need it most, such as those experiencing domestic violence, environmental disaster and income instability.

Taylor questioned why legislators would pass the bill at a time when there is not enough affordable housing, especially for those who are low-income. 

If children and families are not able to live in hotels, Taylor said there is likely to be an increase in tent cities. She said that an increase in these cities can affect education and homelessness. 

Jovita Lee, policy director for Advance North Carolina, said Cooper vetoed the similar past legislation because he felt it was dangerous for vulnerable communities and an ineffective way in keeping hotels safe.

Lee said the state’s current political climate is making it harder for Cooper to sustain vetoes. However, they said his stance on the legislation has not changed.

“Right now, it’s more of a reason of the sustainability piece, not necessarily a morale issue,” she said. 

N.C. Sen. Brad Overcash (R-Gaston), a primary sponsor for S.B. 53, said the bill was created to bring legal clarity between the hotel owner and a guest. He said guests can only be removed if they violate the rules of the hotel. 

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Overcash said this bill had bipartisan support in the state House and that he is thankful the governor allowed it to become law by not vetoing it.

“I assume the governor realized that we were likely to be able to override any veto he had of this bill,” he said.

Overcash said bills become law in North Carolina after 10 days after they're passed, even without the governor's signature.

N.C. Rep. John Sauls (R-Lee, Moore) and Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford), two of the primary sponsors for H.B. 40, did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's requests for comment before the time of publication. 

@sierrapresident

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 


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