NC Legislature overrides 6 governor vetoes, putting measures into law

Wednesday, August 16, 2023
NC Legislature overrides 6 governor vetoes, putting measures into law
Two of those bills focus on charter school regulations, a third on building code procedures, and two on transgender issues.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Legislature voted to successfully override six vetoes by Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday afternoon, putting the measures into law.

One of those was Senate Bill 49, the Parents' Bill of Rights.

After the Senate voted to override, the House later overrode the veto of SB 49, enacting the Parents' Bill of Rights into law.

"This legislation (SB 49) codifies the rights of parents and guardians to guarantee their direct involvement in their child's education," said Rep. Brian Biggs, R-Randolph, on the House floor during the override debate. "This bill brings much-needed transparency and openness to our schools."

Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, added, "Democrats want to keep North Carolina's education system shielded from parental accountability. They want to use our schools to advance their partisan, political agenda instead of working to improve student outcomes. The Parents' Bill of Rights fights back against those efforts. It increases accessibility to what's being taught in our schools, notifies parents of the well-being of their children, and keeps school curriculum focused on core subjects."

Conservative groups hailed the swift overrides of SB 49.

"Parents already have the fundamental right to oversee the education and upbringing of their own children, but public schools have slowly been usurping those rights by hiding information and slipping radical ideologies into their lessons. SB 49 makes it clear, students belong to their parents, not to government schools," said NC Values Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald. "Gov. Cooper vetoed the will of the people when he dismissed parental rights, defying 80% of North Carolinians. NC Values is thankful Republicans in the General Assembly listened to an overwhelming majority of their constituents with this override."

The Alliance Defending Freedom praised the Legislature for "overriding the governor's misguided vetoes."

It took less than 40 minutes for the House to vote to override five of the governor's vetoes.

"The House has successfully overridden six more of Gov. Cooper's vetoes, resulting in huge wins for North Carolina women, parents, and families," said House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland. "While Gov. Cooper has tried to stand between parents and their kids, today the NC House will continue to affirm parent's rights, protect female athletes, and advocate for the health and safety of our children."

Republicans hold a supermajority in both the House and Senate, and no Republican initially voted against any bills that were discussed Wednesday.

Two of those bills focus on charter school regulations, a third on building code procedures, and two on transgender issues.

"The legislature finally comes back to pass legislation that discriminates, makes housing less safe, blocks FEMA disaster recovery funding, hurts the freedom to vote and damages our economy," said Cooper, a Democrat. "Yet they still won't pass a budget when teachers, school bus drivers and Medicaid expansion for thousands of working people getting kicked off their health plans every week are desperately needed. These are the wrong priorities, especially when they should be working nights and weekends if necessary to get a budget passed by the end of the month."

House Democratic Leader Robert Reives echoed the governor, saying, "Instead of coming back to Raleigh to fund our schools, support our law enforcement or provide health care to our neighbors, the Republican supermajority used their power to exploit vulnerable children, make it harder to vote, hamper educators and otherwise stoke culture wars. There has never been a clearer demonstration of what their priorities really are."

The North Carolina Democratic Party also criticized the General Assembly's actions.

"After weeks out of the office, General Assembly Republicans are coming back from their vacations, not to pass a budget, but to prioritize going after trans kids with their extreme agenda," said NCDP Chair Anderson Clayton. "Republicans would rather go after vulnerable communities instead of expanding Medicaid and giving our public school educators the raises they deserve. North Carolinians deserve leaders who protect our people, not target them."


House Bill 574, the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, mandates athletes in middle school, high school, and college to play with their sex assigned at birth. That's aimed almost exclusively at preventing biological males from participating in girls' sports activities.

"I am proud that today my colleagues stood up for female athletes in this state by overriding the governor's veto of this common-sense legislation," said Rep. Jennifer Balkcom, R-Henderson, who is the primary sponsor of the bill. "Girls should not have to worry about having to compete against biological males in sports and this legislation will protect female athletes from such unfair and unsafe competition."

Supporters of that bill held a news conference on Wednesday morning while a small group of opponents across the street tried to drown them out using a loudspeaker and playing music.

Despite this, the event proceeded.

"I have two children. My 11-year-old daughter excels in soccer, tae-kwon-do, and cycling," said Abby Edwards. "I have concerns of fairness and safety, and I feel dismayed at the inevitable decision we'll have to make if she continues her athletic pursuits with males."

Other supporters of the bill such as Payton McNabb, a recent high school graduate from Murphy, argued that the legislation was needed to protect the safety and well-being of young female athletes and to preserve scholarship opportunities for them.

"The veto of this bill was not only a veto on women's rights but a slap in the face to every female in the state," said McNabb, who suffered a concussion and neck injury last year after a transgender opponent and biological male hit her in the head with a hard spike during a school volleyball match.

Sen. Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell, said, "So-called feminists will tell you that in order to have full equality, women need to sacrifice the spaces they fought so hard to secure. That is unequivocally false. We must take a stand now to protect women, otherwise, Democrats will do everything they can to eviscerate every even playing field women have. Our daughters should not be forced to compete against biological men and overriding Gov. Cooper's veto of this legislation ensures our daughters do not have to worry about that."


Another bill that drew attention was House Bill 808, which would ban most so-called gender-transition surgical procedures for children.

On Wednesday afternoon, opponents voiced their displeasure with the legislation.

"Last thing North Carolinians need or want are more constraints on bodily autonomy and less access to health care," said Jillian Riley, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. "But that's exactly what House Bill 808 does. It uses legislation to once again attack our trans youth, taking away essential and life-saving health care."

HB 808 prohibits gender transition surgeries and puberty blockers for minors.

"Statistically, we have seen from studies in Europe high numbers of people who regret having undergone gender-affirming care as minors and many go through the detransition process," said Rep. Ken Fontenot, R-Wilson, a primary sponsor of the legislation. "Sadly, even after people detransition, they cannot have children, and this is too serious and irreversible of a decision for minors to make before their brain is fully developed."

Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, also reacted to the override, saying, "In some of the most liberal parts of the country, children are allowed to permanently alter their bodies with off-label drugs for the purpose of changing their sex. While Republicans are protecting minors from such absurd open-door policies, Democrats are siding with the furthest left of their base and putting politics ahead of documented medical risks and consequences. We need to take a cautious approach and limit access to these life-altering medical procedures."

The ACLU condemned the override of bills affecting transgender youth.

"These bills will have devastating effects on trans youth who are already facing multiple barriers," said Liz Barber, Director of Policy and Advocacy of the ACLU of North Carolina. "This is a coordinated attack on fundamental freedoms that affect us all: inclusion, bodily autonomy, and our right to privacy. Transgender young people deserve to make choices about their own bodies, discuss their identities at school without fear of outing, and participate in sports teams that align with their gender identity. It is shameful that the General Assembly has continued to push this discriminatory agenda. We will continue to advocate for trans youth and protect the freedoms of all North Carolinians."

HOUSE BILLS 219, 618

House Bill 219 and House Bill 618 were aimed at expanding access and streamlining approval of charter schools across the state, Republicans said.

"Education is not one-size-fits-all and charter schools are critical to ensuring families have the freedom to choose an education that best fits their child's needs," said Rep. Tricia Cotham, R-Mecklenburg, the co-chair of the House K-12 Education Committee and primary sponsor of HB 618. "By overriding the governor's veto, these two bills help further our efforts to promote school choice, expand educational opportunities and put kids first."

House Bill 618 gives more authority over charter schools in North Carolina to the Charter Schools Review Board. House Bill 219, the "Charter School Omnibus" makes various changes to laws affecting charter schools, including removing growth restrictions and allowing counties to use property taxes to fund charter school capital needs.

"Thank you to the legislators who voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of HB 219," said Lindalyn Kakadelis, Executive Director of the N.C. Coalition for Charter Schools. "Among other policies, the measure will remove enrollment caps for some public charter schools, a necessary move considering the 77,000 names on charter school waitlists last year. Despite Gov. Cooper's claim to the contrary, HB 219 explicitly maintains enrollment caps for low-performing charter schools."

The Associated Press contributed.