NC Senate passes 2 bills aimed at elections process, proposals head to House

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Thursday, June 22, 2023
NC lawmakers hold committee meetings, votes on several bills as end of session nears
Committees in both chambers reviewed several bills Wednesday, as lawmakers work to review proposals before the end of the session.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The State Senate passed two bills addressing elections, SB 747 and SB 749 on Wednesday evening.

Senate Bill 747 would shift the deadline for mail-in and absentee ballots from three days after election day to 7:30 p.m. on election day. It would also require new signature verification -- using software to verify a person's signature to that on record -- and would change the rules for people who register to vote on election day, making their ballots provisional.

"Probably the most talked about provision in the bill is requiring absentee ballots to be received by the Board of Elections at the close of the polls on election day," said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-NC41. "But this provision will bring us into conformity with 30 other states that require absentee ballots to be received on or before election day including a number of blue states like Colorado, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Requiring all ballots to be in on election day increases confidence and transparency in our elections."

Some Democrats are concerned about the provisions.

"It, unfortunately, includes a lot of problematic things that are going to dissuade people from voting, throw out ballots, suppress the votes of certain people in a way that I think is discriminatory and anti-democratic," said Sen. Natasha Marcus, D-NC 41.

Both bills passed on first reading in the Senate. SB 749 passed two additional readings and the bills will now be sent to the House.

"Elections are invaluable to our state and country, and it's troubling that when given the chance to end the political imbalance on our elections board, Senate Democrats refused to do so," said Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee Chairman Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus. "These two bills take bold steps to make certain that North Carolina's elections are free from political interference and devoid of any mischief,"

Senate Bill 749 would restructure the Board of Elections by splitting the appointments between the majority and minority leaders in the General Assembly.

Daniel, the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee Chairman, said, "Keeping partisanship from swaying the management of our elections is something both parties should get behind, but today's vote shows that Democrats don't care about election integrity. With the approval of Senate Bills 747 and 749, Senate Republicans are removing political gamesmanship from election administration and putting integrity above all."

Committees in both chambers reviewed several other bills Wednesday, as lawmakers worked to review proposals before the end of the session.

Wednesday morning, the Senate Healthcare Committee took up HB 808, which would ban gender transition surgical procedures for children. The bill, which provides narrow exceptions, would prohibit the use of any state funds toward gender transition procedures -- a measure that extends to any governmental health plan or government-offered insurance policy offering gender transition procedures towards this age group (younger than 18). An amendment introduced and ultimately passed during the hearing would allow doctors who violate the bill to have their license revoked, open up legal recourse for recipients of such procedures, and allow treatment to be continued if it started prior to Oct. 1, as long as it's deemed medically necessary.

During public comment, both supporters and opponents shared their opinions.

"My doctors asked my parents if they would rather have a dead daughter or a living son. My parents' care for me was manipulated against them and their love was used to bate and blackmail them. Consent was stolen from them. And no parent has the right to sterilize their child even if they want to," said Prisha Mosley, who said she underwent gender transition procedures as a teenager. Mosley supports the bill.

"You should be ashamed of yourselves. What you are doing today is attacking children. That's all you're doing. You are attacking children and the hatred you have for my community and people like me is suffocating in this room," said Ellie Isley, a transgender woman who opposed the bill.

Ultimately, the bill was passed by the committee.

Later in the morning, the House Education Committee discussed SB 49, known as "Parents' Bill of Rights."

The legislation would prohibit instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality in kindergarten through fourth-grade curriculums, though educators would be able to respond to student-initiated questions. It would also allow parents access to learning materials, including which books their children checked out of the library, as well as require them to be informed of changes to a child's name or pronoun in school records. Furthermore, parents would need to provide consent for a protected information survey - which could include questions such as political affiliation and sexual behavior.

Sen. Amy Galey, one of the bill's sponsors, discussed the legislation during the hearing.

"During the pandemic, when parents across North Carolina were tasked with the responsibility of watching over their children while their children engaged in their education online, many parents had concerns about the curriculum that they saw. Parents of course over time have had concerns about other ways they've interacted with the school system," said Galey, a Republican who represents Alamance and Randolph counties.

Though lawmakers were able to question Galey, the committee did not allow for members of the public to address them.

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"It is never OK for a body in power to take aim at the most vulnerable children in our state. And pass Bill after bill after bill to harm them. Well, at this very hour, our North Carolina Supreme Court is yet again dealing with the legislature's consistent failure to uphold their Constitution and an oath to provide for our public schools," said Renee Sekel, a parent who opposed the bill.

The committee passed the bill.