By L.A. Williams
Christan Action League
With Labor Day just around the corner, it’s easy to forget that North Carolina lawmakers still have lots of work to do this summer and plenty of legislation on the table. While some legislators have been back and forth on vacation, others have been behind closed doors trying to hammer out an agreement on the budget.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said this week that the state’s $30 billion spending plan, which was due in July, likely won’t be signed until September. Even so, both chambers have sessions planned for next week. And the House may take up a number of veto override votes as soon as Aug. 16 if enough lawmakers are on site to maintain the GOP’s supermajority.
“We urge lawmakers to coordinate their calendars so they do not to miss the opportunity to override the vetoes on three bills that would protect parents’ rights, stop so-called ‘gender-affirming care’ on children under 18 and keep biological males out of women’s sports,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. He said despite the seeming lull in activity at the Legislature while House and Senate leaders have hashed out budget issues, Christians across the state need to keep an eye on these bills and others.
Veto Overrides Needed
H808: Gender Transition/Minors
House Bill 808 would stop medical providers from performing mutilating surgeries or prescribing puberty blockers or hormone treatments for people under 18 with a very few exceptions. Creech addressed the House Judiciary Committee, speaking in favor of the bill in June. He pointed out that minors are not permitted by law to use tobacco, drink alcohol, take drugs or gamble, all of which negatively affect their health. In the same way, he said, minors should not be allowed to alter their gender surgically – an act which poses multiple risks, including complications from the surgery, hormonal imbalances, and an increased chance of developing mental health issues.
H574: Fairness in Women’s Sports Act
The Rev. Creech also lobbied for House Bill 574, which would keep biological males from competing in girls’ or women’s sports from middle school through college. Before approving the bill, state lawmakers heard from several female athletes including former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who testified about her experience competing against male swimmer William “Lia” Thomas. “Believing in biology is not bigoted,” Gaines told lawmakers.
S49: Parents’ Bill of Rights.
Declaring that “parental involvement and empowerment is fundamental to the successful education of all students,” this bill prohibits instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality in the curriculum for kindergarten through fourth grade. It also requires school officials to notify parents if their child asks to be called by a different name or pronoun. The 12-page bill codifies several more general and specific rights of parents, including the right to inspect curriculum materials being used in their child’s classroom and to access a list of resources their child has checked out from the school library.
Override votes in the House are anticipated on Wednesday. Senate leaders have said they will follow suit.
“Pray that lawmakers are well and able to attend these sessions to vote, as a three-fifths majority will be needed to override Gov. Cooper’s veto,” Creech says.
Still on The Table
Lawmakers have for the most part shut down the committee process for the summer, but scores of bills that have already passed the House or the Senate will remain eligible for next year, when lawmakers kick off the second half of the state’s two-year legislative session.
“Bottomline, the session isn’t closed until that final gavel, so we must stay vigilant and ready to speak out should these issues come back up for debate,” Creech said.
Bills to Support
This legislation would prohibit the sale of kratom to anyone under 18 and require manufacturers, distributors and retailers of the substance to be licensed by the state’s Department of Revenue. “We still believe an outright ban is a much better approach to this dangerous drug,” says the Rev. Mark Creech. “Still, a law to control who can buy it is better than no regulation at all.”
S508: Remove Volunteer Chaplain Education Requirements
This bill would make it clear that community-funded and volunteer chaplains for the state’s prisons are not required to have any level of education. Current policies, which require chaplains to have a Master of Divinity or equivalent level of education have prevented some prisons from having chaplains. “Formal training resulting in a bachelor’s or master’s degree in divinity, theology, or related fields such as counseling and pastoral care is to be much appreciated,” said the Rev. Creech. “But the effectiveness of a chaplain may depend more on factors such as their ability to connect with inmates, listen actively, provide emotional support, and speak to them on their level, which may not necessarily be tied to formal education. Inmates need every opportunity to be exposed to as many voices as possible in the hope of finding one or more that can help them.”
Bills to Oppose
S490: ABC Omnibus 2023
Sunday ABC sales, curbside cocktails, happy hours, discount liquor, and a host of other alcohol-pushing provisions are included in this 36-page omnibus bill. The Rev. Creech has said that at least 11 provisions among 31 are “extremely concerning.” He addressed the House Committee on Alcohol Beverage Control when it took up the bill in June and provided a nine-page analysis of the measure and how it would negatively affect the health and safety of North Carolinians.
S3: Compassionate Care Act
This bill would legalize pot for people with a range of debilitating or terminal illnesses and authorize 10 seed-to-sale suppliers across the state to pay licensing fees ($50,000 initially and $10,000 a year) among other costs for the privilege of selling the psychoactive drug. Lawmakers heard passionate testimony on both sides of the issue, including from one of their own. Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) advocated strongly for the bill and even led the Senate to hold an unrelated bill hostage to its passage. Thus far, House leaders have said there is not enough support among GOP members to move the measure forward in their chamber, but again, as long as lawmakers are in session, there’s a chance it could come up.
By approving mobile sports betting this year, the Legislature already embraced the largest expansion of legal gambling in the state since the inception of the lottery in 2005. But the push for more gambling continues as lawmakers may also authorize up to four new casinos in economically depressed areas of the state and could even open the door once again to video lottery terminals. These ideas are being considered as part of budget negotiations. Including them in the budget bill would be a way to make them legal without putting them in a standalone bill that could be fully debated.
Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) has told reporters that he believes casinos would provide a much-needed economic boost to rural areas like his own district. He and others have expressed concern that the state is losing gambling dollars to Virginia, which is opening casinos along the North Carolina border. Moore also seems amenable to the new casinos.
“The gambling industry has deep pockets and is relentless in its push to legalize any and all types of gambling in every corner of the state,” said the Rev. Creech. “We must pray that lawmakers don’t become so focused on the industry’s empty economic promises that they lose sight of all the harm that casinos and video lottery terminals will bring to North Carolina families.”