RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed on Monday both an energy bill and the legislature’s annual regulatory reform measure while allowing legislation directing more state government oversight of high school athletics to become law.
The measures were among those the General Assembly approved last month before it left Raleigh for a brief hiatus. A dozen had remained on the Democratic governor’s desk as of early Monday.
The vetoed measures now return to the General Assembly, where Republicans hold narrow veto-proof majorities and could hold override votes this month. Before Monday, Cooper had vetoed 17 bills this year, and Republicans had overridden all but three, which are still expected to be acted upon.
The governor can sign a bill he receives into law or veto it. Otherwise, a bill becomes law if he fails to act within 10 days. Cooper said Monday that he signed seven of the remaining bills and declined to sign three others.
The governor on Sept. 22 announced his decision not to sign on one of those three bills, the two-year state budget bill, which now will become law effective Tuesday.
Cooper had said there were many spending and policy provisions within the budget that he strongly disliked. But several months ago, lawmakers set an enacted budget as the trigger necessary for Cooper’s administration to implement the expansion of Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults. So by letting the budget become law, Medicaid expansion, which has been one of Cooper’s top priorities, will launch Dec. 1.
The energy bill that Cooper vetoed would encourage more nuclear energy in North Carolina by including that the power produced from nuclear plants and fusion energy be counted toward percentages of electricity that utilities like Duke Energy must generate from renewable sources.
The bill would relabel “renewable energy resources” needed to meet the portfolio standards as “clean energy resources.” Duke Energy already is proposing to state electricity regulators that some coal-fired plants going offline in the future be replaced with a smaller-scale nuclear plants.
Cooper’s veto message said the bill attempts to take the state off a “bipartisan path to removing carbon from our electric power sector in the most cost-effective way,” to the benefit of utility company profits. A 2021 law already is pushing Duke Energy toward eliminating carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 in part by increasing solar and wind-power generation.
“North Carolina should consider all pathways to decarbonize, rather than putting a thumb on the scale in favor of building new conventional generation,” Cooper wrote.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Newton of Cabarrus County, a former Duke Energy executive and bill sponsor, said Cooper’s “hardline opposition to nuclear power is a slap in the face to North Carolina’s energy industry.” The bill, Newton said, would help create a reliable electrical grid.
As for the legislature’s annual regulatory bill, Cooper called it “a hodgepodge of bad provisions that will result in dirtier water, discriminatory permitting and threats to North Carolina’s environment.”
Environmentalists have criticized the measure for certain state permitting changes that they say could assist the approval of a proposed natural gas pipeline that would enter the state from Virginia. Another provision would adjust state law about how waste management systems for hogs and other animals on farms are permitted.
GOP Rep. Jeff Zenger of Forsyth County, a regulatory reform bill sponsor, said Cooper “sided with radical, environmentalist, job crushing bureaucrats over the people of North Carolina” with the veto.
Cooper also cited a provision in the measure that blocked administrative rules from taking effect that describe good-faith efforts to engage minority-owned businesses and others considered “historically underutilized” in state contracting.
The governor also said he had allowed a bill to become law that will place more oversight by state education leaders upon the chief nonprofit body that manages high school sports beyond what was required in a 2021 law. The language demanding more supervision of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association was inserted into an unrelated insurance regulation bill.
Cooper called the sports-governance changes “a solution in search of a problem” and said lawmakers should have let the 2021 law remain.
The governor signed into law a bill that will create a computer science course requirement to graduate from high school and soon demands adult age verification on websites that publish sexually explicit material.
Another bill Cooper signed will increase criminal penalties against K-12 educators who commit certain sex offenses against students and will educate children in upper grades through a video about what constitutes child abuse and neglect.
And another law with Cooper’s signature in part will make the intentional dissemination of obscenity a higher grade of felony when it is committed knowingly in a child’s presence.