By Mitch Kokai
Gov. Roy Cooper has pulled out his veto stamp again to reject bills dealing with public school indoctrination and penalties for rioting. Cooper now has vetoed 10 bills this year and 63 bills since becoming governor in 2017.
House Bill 324, Ensuring Dignity and Nondiscrimination in Schools, was designed to prevent schools from forcing students to adopt certain controversial beliefs. Supporters and opponents alike linked some of those beliefs to the controversial Critical Race Theory.
“The legislature should be focused on supporting teachers, helping students recover lost learning, and investing in our public schools,” Cooper said in his veto message. “Instead, this bill pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education.”
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, led the push for the final version of H.B. 324. “It’s perplexing that Gov. Cooper would veto a bill that affirms the public school system’s role to teach students the full truth about our state’s sometimes ugly past,” Berger said in a prepared statement. “His invented excuse is so plainly refuted by the text of the bill that I question whether he even read it.”
“More broadly, Democrats’ choice to oppose a bill saying schools can’t force kids to believe one race is superior to another really shows how far off the rails the mainstream Democratic Party has gone,” Berger added.
The idea that members of one race or sex are superior to another is one of 13 concepts targeted in H.B. 324. The bill would ban schools from promoting those concepts, with “promotion” defined as forcing students or staff to endorse those concepts.
House Bill 805, Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder, aimed to step up penalties for people who commit violent acts during protests.
“People who commit crimes during riots and at other times should be prosecuted and our laws provide for that, but this legislation is unnecessary and is intended to intimidate and deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peacefully protest,” Cooper said in his veto message.
Berger’s counterpart in the state House, Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, led the push for H.B. 805. His support for the measure included a rare speech from the floor of the House chamber.
Both vetoed bills passed on party-line votes. The Senate approved H.B. 324 with a 25-17 vote, while the House approved it, 61-41. Every “yes” vote came from a Republican, every “no” vote from a Democrat.
The Senate approved H.B. 805 with a 25-19 vote, while the House approved it, 63-41. Two House Democrats joined Republicans to support the measure. Every Senate Democrat voted no.
Republicans don’t have enough votes in either the House or Senate to override one of Cooper’s vetos by themselves. If every member of the legislative chamber is present and voting, Republicans need support from three House Democrats and two Democratic senators to meet a three-fifths, or 60%, threshold. That’s the minimum support needed to overcome the governor’s objections.
State legislators haven’t voted successfully to override a Cooper veto since December 2018. Cooper has issued 35 vetoes since 2019 after Republicans lost veto-proof supermajority control of the state House and Senate in the 2018 elections. So far, Republican lawmakers have not secured enough Democratic support to set aside any vetoes from the past three years.
Along with the two vetoes, Cooper also signed nine bills into law Friday.