On Tuesday, the North Carolina General Assembly overrode five bills that had been vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper. Since the legislature held its first override vote in March, there have been a total of 19 veto overrides this year.

The five bills overridden by the legislature are as follows:

  • H.B. 600: Regulatory Reform Act of 2023
  • S.B. 512: Greater Accountability for Boards/Commissions
  • S.B. 678: Clean Energy/Other Changes
  • S.B. 747: Election Law Changes
  • S.B. 749: No Partisan Advantage in Elections

H.B. 600, the “Regulatory Reform Act of 2023,” was vetoed by Cooper last week. Cooper called the bill “a hodgepodge of bad provisions that will result in dirtier water, discriminatory permitting, and threats to North Carolina’s environment.” H.B. 600 had received bipartisan support in the House, with eight Democrats voting to send the bill to Gov. Cooper’s desk. One Republican voted against the bill.

The bill was overridden by the Senate by a vote of 30-18 with all Republicans voting in favor and all but two Democrats voting against. Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, was absent, and Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, was present but did not vote.

It was overridden by the House by a vote of 77-38 with bipartisan support.

S.B. 512, “Greater Accountability for Boards/Commissions, shifts appointment powers at nine key boards and commissions, including the N.C. Utility Commission, which regulates Duke Energy and other utilities; the Board of Transportation, which makes road funding decisions; and the Environmental Management Commission, which is responsible for regulations involving air and water quality.

“The legislature is the elected body closest to the people of North Carolina and has the ability to recruit a qualified, diverse roster of appointees,” Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, said. “Senate Bill 512 balances appointment power between the legislative and executive branches and brings better representation to North Carolina’s boards and commissions.”

Sen. Julie Mayfield, D-Buncombe, spoke against the bill, saying it does “the opposite” of bringing accountability to elections boards. Mayfield also said the General Assembly may be the least accountable body in the state and talked about the state budget, gun laws, abortion policy, and the upcoming new maps during her speaking time. Sen. Daniel called for a point of order, saying Mayfield’s comments did not pertain to the bill.

The bill was overridden by the Senate by a vote of 30-19. It was overridden by the House by a vote of 72-44.

S.B. 678, “Clean Energy/Other Changes,” which is designed to help pave the way for more investment in nuclear energy in North Carolina by defining “clean” energy and replacing “renewable energy” in law with “clean energy.” All Senate Republicans and one Democrat voted in favor. The House passed it 66 to 36 with support from nine Democrats and all Republicans but one.

“Higher electric rates disproportionately hurt low-income families,” said bill sponsor Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus. “The provisions in this bill that Governor Cooper rejected… will help North Carolina move towards our clean energy future.”

“If you care about minimizing the costs of clean energy, you will vote in favor of this bill,” Newton said.

Graig Meyer spoke against the bill, “I cannot think of any cheaper way than energy that literally comes out of the sky for free,” Meyer said, presumably referring to solar energy. Meyer also said he would have preferred keeping language that had been taken out in a conference committee.

Newton responded.

“If there cant be anything cheaper than solar,” Newton said, paraphrasing Meyer. “Well, if that’s true, the Utilities Commission will decide that.” Newton noted that the Utilities Commission is appointed by Governor Cooper, and they are under orders from the legislature to oversee implementation of a “least-cost,” and “reliable” energy plan.

“Nuclear power must be a part of the discussion when we are talking about energy, and Senate Bill 678 ensures it will be. Over the governor’s opposition, the General Assembly is putting North Carolina in a position where expanding nuclear is less of a question and more of a reality. Citizens and businesses will benefit from the true clean energy advancements made in this bill.”

Sen. Paul Newton, R- Cabarrus

All Senate Democrats voted against S.B. 678 this time around, including Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, who had previously supported the bill. The veto was overridden in the House by a vote of 72-44.

S.B. 747, “Election Law Changes,” was also overridden by the legislature. It drew national attention after Cooper accused lawmakers of “racism” after its passage because it requires, among other measures, that election day be the deadline for absentee votes. It also bans private groups from covering some elections’ administrative costs, and clarifies the rights and duties of election observers. Cooper released a video on social media opposing the bill.

“If you are black or brown, Republicans really don’t want you to vote,” Cooper said in the August video.

S.B. 747 contains no provisions concerning race. Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, responded, saying Cooper was “mischaracterizing a bill that simply strengthens election integrity in North Carolina.”

“This bill is a monster, and the provisions within it should not be taken lightly,” said Sen. Kandie Smith, D-Pitt, speaking against the bill.

The bill was overridden by the Senate by a vote of 30-19. It was overridden by the House by a vote of 72-44.

S.B. 749, No Partisan Advantage in Elections, was also overridden by the legislature. The bill would restructure the state Board of Elections by splitting appointments between the majority and minority party leaders in the state legislature. NCSBE appointment are currently made by the governor on recommendations by the two biggest state parties, with a tie-breaking seat also appointed by the governor. Unlike under current law, unaffiliated voters would be able to serve on the board under S.B. 749. 

Gov. Cooper called the bill an “unconstitutional power grab” and said, “The last thing our democracy needs is for our elections to be run by people who want to rig them for partisan gain.” 

The bill was overridden by the Senate by a vote of 30-19. It was overridden by the House by a vote of 72-44.