Cooper delivers mixed bag of signing, vetoing, and allowing bills to become law

Gov. Roy Cooper is underwater on his approval rating, according to the latest Civitas poll of likely general election voters.

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  • Cooper now has 13 vetoes this session. Eight have been overridden by the legislature. Two more are scheduled for override votes on Wednesday.

Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper signed a slew of bills into law Friday but did veto two, including one pertaining to a charter school review board. He also allowed two bills to become law without his signature. 

According to a press release, the bills he signed into law include H.B. 813 The Pretrial Integrity Act, H.B.790 Innocence Inquiry Commission Provisions, H.B. 34 Protect Those Who Serve and Protect Act, H.B. 627 On-Site Wastewater Rules Implementation, H.B. 344 Mental Health Lic. Fair Practice Stds, S.B. 389 Parent Consent to Donate Blood/Tech Correct, S.B. 135 Registered Vet. Tech. Modification, S.B. 45 CADC Supervision Requirements, and S.B. 507 Chiropractic Preceptorship Modifications, H.B. 605 School Threat Assessment Teams, and H.B. 815 The Loving Homes Act.

H.B. 813 takes away the responsibility of magistrates to set bail for some violent offenses. Instead, judges will determine whether a person charged with specific violent crimes will be released from jail before going to trial.

H.B. 605  requires public schools to have “threat assessment teams,” safety exercises, and student support programs.

Currently, no laws require public school units to establish threat assessment teams. Charter, regional, and laboratory schools are encouraged to have one, but not strictly required. 

Under the measure, which the House concurred on June 27 after the Senate passed it the prior week, private schools would be encouraged, not required, to develop a School Risk Management Plan, provide campus schematics to local authorities, and participate in school safety exercises alongside public schools. 

Threat assessment according to the bill’s definition refers to the “fact-based process of identifying, assessing, and managing behavior that may pose a risk of violence or other harm to self or others” at a school. As a result, threat assessment teams refer to the group of experts on “counseling, instruction, school administration, and law enforcement” that conduct the assessments of what threatening behavior warrants further investigation.”

Threatening behavior would be defined as “any communication or action that indicates that an individual may pose a danger to the safety or well-being of school staff or students through acts of violence or other behaviors that would cause harm to self or other.”

In individual schools, threat assessment teams would be composed of “at least one school psychologist, one staff member knowledgeable about and experienced in working with students with special needs, and one staff member knowledgeable about and experienced in working with students with disabilities.”

H.B. 815 would abolish the “arbitrary” five-child cap for foster homes and allow decision-makers to consider additional factors.

“We have children sleeping out of state in other homes and facilities, sleeping in emergency departments, and sleeping on couches in DHHS offices,” Rep. Allen Chesser, R-Nash, said on June 29, the day the measure passed in the legislature. “I find this unacceptable, especially while State Administrative Code arbitrarily denies families the ability to host foster children strictly because of the number of children.”

But, as usual, Cooper also vetoed some bills, including H.B. 488, Code Council Reorg, and Var. Code Amend, and H.B. 618, Charter School Review Board.

Under the current system, new public charters must first be authorized by the Charter Schools Advisory Board and then receive a majority vote from the State Board of Education. H.B.618 would create a new Charter School Review Board responsible for evaluating and approving new charters. Its decisions could be appealed to the full State Board of Education.

The new commission would have 11 voting members — four from the Senate, four from the House, and two from the State Board of Education. The final member would be the lieutenant governor.

It passed in the Senate on June 20 and received concurrence in the House on June 27.

“The North Carolina Constitution clearly gives the State Board of Education the oversight authority for public schools, including charter schools,” Cooper said. “This bill is a legislative power grab that turns that responsibility over to a commission of political friends and extremists appointed by Republican legislators, making it more likely that faulty or failing charter schools will be allowed to operate and shortchange their students. Oversight of charter schools should be conducted by education experts, not partisan politicians.”

According to the bill’s language, H.B. 448 reorganizes the building code council and creates the residential code council, amends various provisions of the North Carolina State Building Code and Land Development Regulations, and increases the project cost minimum for the applicability of general contractor licensing requirements.

“This bill stops important work to make home construction safer from disaster and more energy efficient, and ultimately will cost homeowners and renters more money,” Cooper said. “The bill also imperils North Carolina’s ability to qualify for FEMA funds by freezing residential building code standards. Not only does the bill wipe out years of work to make homes safer and more affordable, it also violates the Constitution by rigging the way rules are made.”

Cooper’s press release said that by “rigging” the board to require nine votes to approve rules and conduct business, the bill violates the Constitution by failing to follow McCrory v. Berger despite giving the Governor seven appointments to the legislature’s six. It also said the bill also requires board members to undergo Senate confirmation and takes away the Governor’s ability to remove an appointee.

“These changes violate the separation of powers clause and further allows the legislature to put its thumb on the scale in these important safety decisions,” the release concluded.

Cooper’s vetoes could prove futile, with the Republican supermajority in the General Assembly already on a track of overriding his vetoes this session.

He also let S.B. 246 Property Owners Protection Act and S.B. 171 Department of Public Safety Agency Bill.-AB become law without his signature.

The two vetoes on Friday bring Cooper veto count to 88, with 13 this session alone. The North Carolina House has scheduled override votes for Wednesday for Cooper vetoes of the Fairness in Women’s Sports bill and the Gender Transition/Minors bill.

Alex Baltzegar, David Bass, and Kevin Garcia-Galindo contributed to this article.