On Friday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed two bills including one that would prevent state pension money from being invested using environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria in state investment decisions.

The bill passed the N.C. Senate on June 18 with no Democrat support.

“This bill does exactly what it claims to stop. For political reasons only, it unnecessarily limits the Treasurer’s ability to make decisions based on the best interest of state retirees and the fiscal health of the retirement fund,” said Cooper of his decision to veto the bill.

When H.B. 750 passed the House, five Democrats voted in favor: Reps. Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford, Frances Jackson, D-Cumberland, Ray Jeffers, D-Durham, Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, and Michael Wray, D-Northampton.

“No state employee or business should be disqualified from a promotion or contract because they aren’t committed to ESG and all the politics that come with it,” Sen. Dave Craven, R-Randolph, said. “This bill will prevent the state from making ESG-driven business decisions, and instead have the focus be on merit and maximizing returns.”

The bill has the support of North Carolina’s State Treasurer Dale Folwell who says that investing public money based on ESG principles is not consistent with the state’s fiduciary responsibility to state retirees.

“Under no circumstances should a state treasurer invest pension funds to ‘make the world better,’” John Hood, president of the John William Pope Foundation said. “It’s not the treasurer’s money. It’s essentially a form of stealing from public employees, who have a right to receive maximum returns with which they can do whatever they like.”

The other bill Cooper vetoed is Senate Bill 582, the North Carolina Farm Act of 2023 .

“The provision in this bill that severely weakens protection for wetlands means more severe flooding for homes, roads and businesses and dirtier water for our people, particularly in eastern North Carolina,” said Cooper in a statement after the veto. “This provision coupled with the drastic weakening of federal rules caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Sackett case, leaves approximately 2.5 million acres, or about one half of our state’s wetlands, unprotected. The General Assembly has allocated tens of millions of dollars to protect the state from flooding and my administration is working to stop pollution like PFAS and other contaminants. This bill reverses our progress and leaves the state vulnerable without vital flood mitigation and water purification tools.”

When it passed the legislature, the Farm Act had bipartisan support from nine Democrat senators including the Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Dan Blue.

“I am disappointed to see that Gov. Cooper is allowing politics to get in the way of
supporting farmers,” said Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Energy, and Environment Committee in a statement. “His objection fails to consider our obligation to comply with federal law and regulations. The 2023 Farm Act ensures North Carolina is in compliance with federal laws.”

“Supporting our agricultural heritage and those who feed us every day is the right
thing to do and benefits the entire state,” he added. “I am hopeful this veto will be overridden with similar bipartisan support when it comes back before the legislature.”

On Monday, lawmakers in the N.C. Senate voted to override two other vetoes of the governor, bringing that chamber’s total to six overrides this legislative session.

Cooper also signed seven bills into law and declined to sign one, House Bill 130, letting it become law without his signature.