After House Democrats stalled a vote for nearly an hour in opposition to legislation cracking down on masking in public, House Republicans passed the bill late Tuesday afternoon, securing approval among both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly. 

Republicans passed House Bill 237, which restricts the wearing of face masks in public as a way to hide a criminal’s identity. The bill also adjusts campaign finance laws in North Carolina. In a 69-43 vote along party lines, its passage in the House follows the Senate’s approval last week. 

On Thursday, the legislation abruptly returned to the Senate calendar with several changes. Some Republicans previously disapproved of the bill because it offered no health exception for wearing a mask. However, in the new version all Republicans considered the slight adjustment enough to satisfy the medical masking requirement.

The bill specifically allows individuals to wear “a medical or surgical grade mask for the purpose of preventing the spread of contagious disease.”

The bill would also enhance sentencing if a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and the defendant was wearing a mask or other clothing to conceal their identity. Protesters who willfully stand in the middle of a highway blocking traffic will be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor under the bill.

In addition to masking laws, it includes language surrounding campaign finance law changes unrelated to the core of the bill. While it does not modify how much money candidate committees or political parties may receive, it does modify how federal campaign and national political party committees (527 committees) may operate in the state. 

SEE ALSO: Mask ban resurfaces with unrelated campaign finance reforms

Rep. Grey Mills, R-Iredell, insisted that it doesn’t open the door to dark money, as Democrats have been claiming. According to an article from Jim Stirling of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation, the bill puts national political parties on more equal footing, potentially limiting the fundraising advantage that Democrats had enjoyed in recent years.

The Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House approved the bill in a meeting minutes before it was brought to the House floor for a vote Tuesday afternoon. On the House floor, Mills explained that all money contributed to North Carolina entities must come from segregated accounts containing only individual donors, which are documented.

“It doesn’t set new ground. It doesn’t create something that the state has never seen before. All it does is clarify our roles, and it resets campaign finance roles to the way they were in the past,” said Mills. 

Republicans say the bill is intended to make it equal for both parties, but Democrats see it as changing the rules during an election year. Many Democrats spoke on the House floor and expressed anger over the move, alleging that the draft was worse than before because the finance law was added. They said the two subject matters within one bill are murky politics, comparing it to mixing apples with oranges.

Earlier in the day, leaders from left-leaning organizations, including Common Cause NC, Democracy NC, and Emancipate NC, held a press conference in front of the Legislative Building in opposition, accusing the Republican-led legislature of upholding “white supremacy” and “infringement on democracy.”

All three groups in North Carolina are identified by Mapping the Left as part of the far left’s grassroots and fundraising apparatus in North Carolina, which draws money to the state from big, ideologically-left national groups like Tides and Open Society Foundations. Common Cause NC was a lead plaintiff in the lawsuits to overturn North Carolina’s electoral maps.

“Our General Assembly and a few men here have decided that we should no longer be able to protest if we are not protesting for the things that uphold and support white supremacy; That is an infringement on everyone’s democracy,” said Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director of Emancipate NC. “And then, in an ironic twist of fate and an absolute nod to the unflinching, unwavering desire of this General Assembly to uphold white supremacy and white supremacist systems, they put into this deal with no oversight, with no input from the people, a measure that will make it easier for folks to hide their faces when they are donating and participating in the financial support of our political election.”