NC Legislature Could See Major Votes This Week on Abortion, Guns and Schools

Participants attend a Moral Monday rally near the North Carolina Legislature in Raleigh, N.C., in 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

By Michael McElroy

May 1, 2023

A procedural deadline on Thursday means North Carolina is set for a flurry of last-minute votes on contentious issues with far-reaching consequences.

Here’s a fun party game: Take an already full legislative calendar and add a hard deadline. Then watch as legislators try to push through highly controversial bills amid the chaos.

There has already been outsized activity in the North Carolina General Assembly the last few weeks as lawmakers move rapidly on complex bills. 

But a major procedural deadline this week called “Crossover” means that any bill that hasn’t passed at least one chamber of the General Assembly by Thursday can’t be passed at all this session. (There are some exceptions, namely any bills dealing with budgets.) 

So, we’re talking about a flurry of bills in the next few days. Here’s a look at what could come up for a vote this week.

Abortion

Let’s start with the big one.

Republican leaders say they are close on an agreement to introduce a 12-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. 

North Carolina had become a sort of abortion-rights sanctuary since the fall of Roe v. Wade last summer, as many Southern states enacted 6-week or all out bans with few or no exceptions. But all abortion bans are dangerous, according to most doctors, including Charlotte-area abortion provider Dr. Katherine Farris. For Farris and many other North Carolina medical professionals, NC’s Republican legislators would not get any points for passing a 12-week ban instead of more restrictive measures.

We spoke with Farris last month about what specifically a 12-week ban would mean for the state.

Guns

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hear House Bill 189, which would mean you no longer need a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public. You would still need a permit to conceal a bowie knife, dagger, metallic knuckles or a stun gun, but, according to this bill, a pistol would no longer be considered a concealed weapon.

But no, you would not be able to carry a concealed handgun into the state legislature building where the lawmakers work. In the halls of the General Assembly, a handgun turns back into a weapon.

LGBTQ Rights

Two other bills that could come before the legislature this week increase penalties for performing “prurient” subject matter in public and for spreading “obscenity,” vague terms that are supposed to mean “sexualized,” but are really just a trojan horse to target gay and trans performers, LGBTQ advocates say.

House Bill 673 bans all drag performances in public or in front of children, even when there is nothing sexual about them. The first offense would be a misdemeanor, the second offense a felony. As of now, this bill is not on the schedule.

But Senate Bill 579, which adds felony charges for disseminating obscene material, is scheduled for a hearing Monday afternoon. Both bills, which are vague enough that they could even apply to gay pride parades and theatrical performances, follow a recent increase across the country of bills targeting LGBTQ people.

Education

Finally, the General Assembly is set to significantly increase the amount of money diverted from the public school system into an unregulated, private school system.

House Bill 823 and its companion SB 406 would expand a school voucher program—which had been intended only for low-income North Carolinians—to all residents. So even North Carolina’s wealthiest families would be eligible for tax-payer funded subsidies to help them pay to send their kids to private school. (Read more about the bill here.)

The bill increases both the scale of the state’s charter schools system and the amount of public money it will receive. 

Rep. Tricia Cotham, who changed parties from Democrat to Republican recently and had previously been an advocate for public schools, was a primary sponsor of the House version of the bill. 

Cotham, in fact, could be the deciding vote on all of these issues.

Author

  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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