RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Republicans in the North Carolina Senate have their version of the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” closer to a full vote in the Senate and – most likely – Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto pen.

With protestors complaining before the start, the Senate Rules Committee – the last stop before a likely floor vote – heard the bill on Tuesday. LGBTQ young people spoke out against House Bill 755 because of the limitations and requirements it would place on teachers in how they deal with issues of gender and sexuality.

Tyler Beall, of Greensboro, speaks out against HB755, the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” during a North Carolina Senate Rules Committee meeting at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

HB 755 was filed more than a year ago, sponsored in the House by two representatives from the Triad, Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) and Rep. Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes), along with Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Valdese) and Rep. John Torbett (R-Stanley). The bill passed the House on party-line votes. Its Senate version has cleared both the Education and Health committees.

No matter what happens in the Rules Committee, on the Senate floor and in possible conference review between the chambers, Cooper is virtually certain to veto the bill as constructed. Republicans don’t have the votes to override that veto.

Most of the items in the bill are covered by existing state statutes and processes. It’s the issues about personal pronouns and teachers’ responsibilities to communicate with parents about discussions that might emerge and the limitations on curricula in kindergarten through Grade 3 that draw the most attention.

Alison Croop, of Raleigh, stands outside the North Carolina Senate Rules Committee room after the committee voted on HB755, the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

“If my child asked a question about something like that, I think I would want to know about it,” Sen. Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) told The News & Observer last week when announcing the bill’s status in the Senate. “And I think it would be incumbent upon the school to notify a parent that those are the kinds of inquiries that a child is making.”

Senate Democrats late last week filed a bill in response that addressed some of the same points, sponsor Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro) said and drew from conversations with parents who told them what they want.

“Unlike the other proposal in the Senate, our proposal isn’t imported from another state and forced on our parents and students,” Garrett said.

One of the protestors on Tuesday was Tyler Beall of Greensboro, who took exception to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s comment last year that referred to transgender and homosexual people as “filth.”

“Is that me here standing right now?” Beall told WNCN-Ch. 17. “Am I filth to you? Is that really the culture you want our students growing up in?”

What of Medicaid expansion?

Meanwhile, the health care bill that would expand Medicaid in North Carolina is making its way through the Senate but may not get an immediate audience in the House. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) told The News & Observer that “I don’t see an appetite for it right now.”

The introduction of the legislation last week by Berger included his “mea culpa,” that he had changed his mind about Medicaid, and that the “Affordable Care Act is not going away.” The bill also addresses the process of creating a certificate of need for new medical facilities and allows nurse practitioners more flexibility in treating patients, which are seen as crucial in rural communities, sponsors say.

N.C. Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford County) (Courtesy of Jon Hardister)
N.C. Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford County) (Courtesy of Jon Hardister)

“We have not yet discussed this matter in the House Republican Caucus,” Hardister, the House majority whip, said in an email response to questions from WGHP. “I have been preoccupied with legislation in the House over the last few days and haven’t had a chance to review the Senate proposal.

“As you know, the bill is fairly complex and covers several policy areas in addition to Medicaid expansion. I still need to look over all of the details. I suspect we will be having conversations soon as to what our next steps are going to be in the House.” 

Democrats have been pushing for Medicaid Expansion for more than a decade, since the Affordable Care Act provided for federal reimbursement to cover the cost of what most estimate would be 600,000 uninsured residents. The House does have a version of the bill assigned to committee.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison

“I say it’s about time,” Bobbie Richardson, chair of the NC Democratic Party, said in an interview. “It has been 12 years or so. I think of the many lives and the many bodies that have suffered due to the fact that they were uninsured or underinsured. But I guess late is better than nothing.”

State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) said Hardister would know better about the potential for the bill in the House but expects to hear more next year. “Jon will have a much better sense of his caucus’ appetite for Medicaid expansion,” she wrote in an email. “The Speaker has been pretty clear that he doesn’t think he has the support in his caucus to bring it up during this short session. We Dems are united in support of Medicaid expansion, so he doesn’t need that many votes.”

Richardson objected to the fact that a work clause – requiring Medicaid recipients to be employed, which is a debate being conducted on the national stage – was part of the Senate’s bill.

“That is always the case with them,” she said. “Put a clause in there that is not swallowable. They then can turn around and say, ‘Well, we tried to pass something.’ It is putting more hardship on people.”

Close early Senate poll

An early head-to-head poll by the right-leaning John Locke Foundation/Civitas Institute finds a tight race for North Carolina’s about-to-be-open seat in the U.S. Senate. The poll revealed that Republican nominee Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) has a 2-percentage-point lead over Democrat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley (WGHP file photo)
U.S. Senate candidates: Democrat Cheri Beasley (left) and Republican Ted Budd (WGHP file photo)

A WGHP/The Hill/Emerson College Poll, conducted among voters in early May – before each candidate dominated their Primary Election – showed Budd with a 6.8-point lead, 48.2%-41.4%, and 10.4% undecided.

Civitas gave Budd 44% and Beasley 42%, with 12% undecided. Libertarian Shannon Bray had 2%, and Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh had 1%. The difference is within the margin of error is 3.95%.

The winner replaces Republican Richard Burr of Winston-Salem, who is retiring after three terms.

“We have to make sure North Carolinians know that Ted Budd is a clone of Donald Trump,” Richardson said. “He does not support working-class people. He does not support with women having a choice over their bodies. He is in the pocket of big corporations and is willing to give them healthy tax breaks while he is taxing 40% of North Carolinians.”

She cited Budd’s stance on responding to COVID-19, the American Rescue Plan, women’s rights and Medicare and Social Security. She also lumped in former Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the state last week and has been trying to separate himself from Trump’s shadow.

“He can’t distance himself from Trump,” Richardson said. “He says he is reformed. But he still is a part of the MAGA agenda.”

Tidbits

  • Civitas also found that a plurality of respondents said abortions should remain legal (51%), and nearly 3 out of 4 respondents (71%) said there should be some restrictions.  That’s about the same as the WGHP/Emerson poll, which said 46% favored keeping Roe v. Wade intact.
  • But only 42% of those responding to Civitas said they would favor more restrictive gun regulations. The survey was in the field before the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. WGHP/Emerson Poll did not ask about gun rights.
  • The Republican nominee in the 1st Congressional District, Sandy Smith, won her primary despite charges that she domestically abused two former husbands and a daughter, who obtained a protective order against her, WRAL reports. These charges were part of a heavy PAC-funded advertising campaign against her, but she won her primary by about 2,000 votes. Smith has denied all the claims, but WRAL’s accounts come from court filings and interviews. She faces Democratic state Sen. Don Davis in November in a bid to replace retiring Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-Wilson).