June has been a busy month for the legislative majority in the short session. Several bills have been calendared, as summarized below.

HB 237 Unmasking Mobs and Criminals. Both the House and Senate have passed the updated version of this bill, which now goes to Gov. Cooper to sign or veto. LWVNC has joined with other voting rights groups to ask that the governor issue a veto. While it provided some allowance for people to use masks to protect their health, it places limits on the specific types of masks that can be worn. It gives law enforcement discretion to determine what types of masks are allowed and empowers any individual to demand that the wearer remove their mask. This unwarranted expansion of policing powers is a disturbing echo of a potential police state where peaceful, lawful protesters can be targeted and arrested at will with little accountability. 

“Protesting is a part of democracy,” said Dawn Blagrove, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist who leads the group Emancipate North Carolina. “To chill the right to protest is a surefire sign that you are afraid of the people. And when you are afraid of the people you are afraid of their power.”

This bill also makes significant changes to NC campaign finance laws and would create a massive loophole: Allowing for unlimited amounts of untraceable “dark money” to flow into politicians’ campaigns, by using state political parties as the middleman and without the public being able to see who’s behind it. The new changes to state law would loosen up the rules for state political parties, allowing them to now take money from a type of federal political action committee commonly called Super PACs.

From Bob Hall (Democracy NC): “We already have tons of mystery money polluting state politics, which impacts everything from abortion rights to the North Carolina Zoo. HB 237 will make life worse. Put plainly, it gives the super-rich and their political allies permission to engage in expansive corruption.” 

On a more positive note, HB 1075 Constitutional Amendment/Right to Access Public Records was filed on June 5. It would open up state lawmakers’ communications as public records. It comes as the Republican-led legislature used last year’s state budget to also pass a law more fully closing off already opaque communications from public records requests. The new law also gave lawmakers the ability to sell or destroy any records of theirs at any time — something Sen. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, has said raises even more ethical problems than simply making their records non-public.

Election Laws and Practices

HB 1074 Constitutional Amendment/Citizens-Only Voting. This amendment would ban residents who are not U.S. citizens from voting. It would retool language on the books that already limits balloting to U.S.-born or naturalized citizens 18 and older. The state constitution already says only citizens may vote. The proposed amendment would make minor tweaks to the language, but it wouldn’t change anything in practice. The debate comes as Republican political insiders, in North Carolina and nationwide, have worked to make immigration a top issue for the 2024 elections. This bill passed the House election law committee on June 5 and is now waiting for the full House and Senate to take it up. 

NPR reports that about 1 in 10 adult citizens, or 21.3 million eligible voters, say they either do not have or could not quickly find their U.S. birth certificate, passport, naturalization certificate, or certificate of citizenship. HB 1074 could disenfranchise many voters should it become law in NC. 

HB 1071 Use Methods of Certain Groups/Voter Rolls. We have noticed increased activity by groups to remove voters from the voter rolls. This bill comes out of a HAVA Act compliant by Carol Snow at the March 11 NCSBE meeting concerning list maintenance practices (more info in the 3/11 meeting folder). While the NCSBE voted not to uphold her complaint, it opened the door to a further examination of list maintenance standards and procedures. If passed, HB 1071 would formalize those practices into policy. There is serious concern that this bill would violate the National Voter Registration Act, so it is unlikely we will see this version of the bill advance, but we need to be following list maintenance procedures closely. 

HB 1072 Require Disclaimer for Use of Artificial Intelligence in Political Ads. This bill mirrors similar legislation proposed in other states. AI doctored images of candidates is a significant issue, but ongoing freedom-of-speech concerns may limit its movement to a vote by the full House.

NC Budget

The NC Budget for FY 2024-2025 was enacted in October 2023 after a lengthy negotiation between the legislature and the governor during the long part of the NCGA 2023-2024 session. Since that budget was passed, NC revenue has grown by about $1 billion. The governor submitted his amended budget in April 2024, and the House released its proposed budget on Monday night. Currently, there is significant disagreement between the House and Senate. According to WRAL, the only area of agreement concerns increases in private school tuition funding. 

During the budget negotiation period, it is common that other issues are addressed, and we will be watching for any additional changes to election related policies or laws.

Update 2024 NC Legislative Landscape – from NC State LWV

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