Gov. Cooper vetoes face mask bill, says it creates 'loophole for secret, unlimited campaign money'

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Friday, June 21, 2024
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes face mask bill
He called the legislation "a loophole for secret, unlimited campaign money," referring to the section abruptly added that changes campaign finance law.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Governor Roy Cooper vetoed House Bill 237, which would restrict wearing masks in public.

Known as the Unmasking Mobs and Criminals Act, the bill is purported to make it easier to prosecute people trying to hide behind a mask while committing a crime. This would repeal the pandemic-era exemption that allowed mask-wearing for health reasons.

The bill passed in the Senate in a 30-15 vote last month but initially failed in the House because it didn't provide enough protections for people with medical conditions. This prompted a conference committee and changes.

The House of Representatives ultimately voted in favor of a bill 69-43 last week.

WATCH | North Carolina's updated mask bill passes House of Representatives 69-43

A lengthy debate in the House ended with a vote in favor of a bill that aims to restrict mask-wearing in public.

Cooper released a statement Friday morning on his veto, saying:

"This legislation creates a gaping loophole for secret, unlimited campaign money in the middle of an election year. While voters are kept in the dark, this scheme allows anonymous out-of-state billionaires to flood North Carolina with campaign contributions to rescue extreme right-wing candidates that Republicans now fear will lose. The legislation also removes protections and threatens criminal charges for people who want to protect their health by wearing a mask."

The 'secret, unlimited campaign money' Cooper is referring to a section added to the bill abruptly last week that changes campaign finance law.

"Bad actors have been using masks to conceal their identity when they commit crimes and intimidate the innocent. Instead of helping put an end to this threatening behavior, the governor wants to continue encouraging these thugs by giving them more time to hide from the consequences of their actions," said Sen. Danny Earl Britt Jr., R-Robeson. "I look forward to casting a vote to override this veto and allowing those with actual health concerns to protect themselves and others."

Republicans had downplayed the concerns of Democrat lawmakers, saying the reform would level the playing field and is a response to a 2020 State Board of Elections decision that they say benefitted organizations aligned with Democrats.

Opposing groups said this would allow federal political committees and organizations, such as Super PACs, to make contributions to parties without fulfilling the reporting requirements.