On Thursday, the state Senate passed House Bill 40, Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder, a bill that would increase penalties for damaging property while rioting.
All Republicans voted in favor of the bill. In contrast, 16 out of 17 Democratic senators voted against the bill—the sole Democratic senator who supported H.B. 40 was Sen. Mary Wills Bode, D-Granville.
In the state House, one of the lead sponsors of the bill is Rep. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe. Willingham, a former law enforcement officer, supported the bill despite opposition from most in his party.
Bode, who won one of the most competitive Senate races in North Carolina last year after Democrats spent over $2 million on the seat, was appointed to the Real Estate Commission by Governor Cooper. Cooper vetoed a similar bill last year, saying it was “intended to intimidate and deter people from excercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest.”
Bode’s vote was not critical to this legislation passing, as Republicans already had enough votes to override what would be a Cooper-veto in the state Senate. However, Bode’s vote does establish bipartisan support for H.B. 40.
“We simply must do a better job of protecting the public and our business owners and supporting our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe,” said House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, who is the primary bill sponsor. “I am thankful that both the House and Senate have now approved this commonsense bill.”
Legislators have renewed their push for the bill this year because of millions of dollars in property damage in Raleigh and across North Carolina during 2020 protests after the death of George Floyd.
H.B. 40 would make rioting a felony if it resulted in over $2,500 worth of property damage, involved dangerous weapons or substances, or resulted in someone’s death. It would also make assaulting a police officer or emergency personnel a felony. The previous version of the bill was met with strong opposition from Democrats and social justice advocates, who called it racist and intended to muzzle the exercise of First Amendment rights.
Moore urged Cooper in a press release today to sign the legislation quickly as to help deter future riots.
“Particularly in light of the rampant increase in crime in our state and across the nation, I urge Governor Cooper to sign this commonsense bill into law without delay,” Moore said.
The bill’s passage comes days after a UNC law student from Charlotte was charged with domestic terrorism for actions during a coordinated crowd attack on a police training center in Atlanta.