Bill to block Governor from from mandating vaccinations passes state House

Measure targets powers that Gov. Cooper has never sought to exercise

Backed by Republicans, a bill that would prohibit the Governor from mandating vaccination through executive orders passed the state House Monday. The bill (HB 572) also adds a highly specific provision to the statutes governing the rule-making process of government agencies — prohibiting agencies from penalizing those who refuse to be vaccinated when the agency requires vaccination as a condition of license receipt, renewal or reinstatement.

“This bill prevents the Governor or any of his agencies from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations through executive action,” said Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, one of the primary sponsors of the bill, said in a statement. “This decision should be up to each individual, not the Governor.”

The bill cleared the House 74-39 Monday, welcomed by dozens of supporters of the bill who applauded at its passage, most without any face covering.

As Policy Watch previously reported, some Democrats voiced their opposition to the bill at a committee hearing. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said the executive branch has a role in emergencies such as widespread deadly diseases.

Gov. Roy Cooper has encouraged North Carolinians to seek vaccines. In an ad urging North Carolinians to claim their spots for available shots, Cooper was joined by leadership from both parties — Republican House and Senate leaders Tim Moore and Phil Berger, as well as their Democratic counterparts Robert Reives and Dan Blue, all stressing the importance of vaccination to protect public health.

Cooper set a goal of achieving a vaccination rate of two-thirds of all adults before lifting the mask mandate, according to a press release. However, he has not issued any mandates ordering any groups to be vaccinated.

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Cabarrus Republican who co-sponsored the legislation, proposed an amendment adding a section granting businesses immunity from civil lawsuits if they treat employees and customers equally regardless of whether they’ve received a vaccine approved by the FDA for emergency use.

Yet the amendment was ruled out of order and failed to be adopted.

Ken Sweet

“The vaccines need to be fully tested in experiment,” Ken Sweet, a supporter of the bill said. “It hasn’t been tested and they’ve also been eliminating all the liabilities on it.” He said he is not against vaccines in general but has not gotten any of the COVID vaccines.

The bill made headway on the same day that the FDA authorized the Pfizer-bioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, after testing its safety on 2,260 participants, including 1,131 who received the vaccine and a 1,129 control group.

“Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” advances, setting up veto fight

An abortion-related bill is on its way to the Senate floor this week — and likely headed for a veto.

Senate Bill 405, the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” was reported favorably out of the Senate Rules committee Monday night. Under the measure, doctors who fail to provide care for an infant born after a failed abortion could be charged with a misdemeanor and face civil penalties. Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a nearly identical bill of the same name in 2019. Republicans tried to overturn that veto, but didn’t have the votes. They still don’t have enough votes to do so, without support from Democrats.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), primary sponsor of the bill, said this version of the bill lowers the criminal penalty from a felony to a Class I misdemeanor.

The bill’s sponsors said it is not about abortion but about protecting infants after they are born, despite the intention to abort a pregnancy.

“This is all about saving an infant, an innocent life that has been delivered outside of the mother’s body, no longer a part of the mother’s body,” Krawiec said. “It is by all definitions a living, breathing human – a citizen of America, of North Carolina.”

Krawiec shared stories she had been told about infants born after failed abortions left in empty rooms to die or tossed into medical waste bins.

“This is not humane,” Krawiec said.

 

Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth)


But legal experts say a variety of laws already exist to protect infants born under these conditions. They range from the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act passed by Congress in 2002.

Gov. Cooper also pointed to these protections in his statement on his veto of the similar 2019 bill.

“Laws already protect newborn babies and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients,” Cooper wrote.

Opponents of the current bill say its real goal is to further stigmatize legal abortion and promote the idea that medical professionals who perform abortions are willing to mistreat and kill infants who are born when abortions fail.

“The claims of this bill are blatantly false and are being pushed by anti-abortion activists in order to scare people and stigmatize reproductive health care,” said Susanna Birdsong, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood’s South Atlantic region. “Because the bill assesses criminal penalties to providers, the impact of the bill will be to intimidate providers from providing the care that their patients need.” Read more

More than $350B in federal recovery cash starts rolling out to states, cities, counties

Members of the General Assembly aim to carry concealed handguns at the legislature, elsewhere

Representative Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort)

Representative Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) told his colleagues Monday that district attorneys, assistant district attorneys, superior court judges, magistrates and clerks of court already can carry concealed while on duty. House Bill 47 (Concealed Carry in the General Assembly) would simply extend that authority to legislators and members of the North Carolina Council of State.

Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) questioned why lawmakers felt the need for the added protection.

“We just spent – I don’t know what the tab was – on all these metal detectors and all these increased staff we have at the General Assembly,” said Butler.

“I trust Chief Brock to protect us. I think this is just a terrible idea.”

Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover)

Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) questioned whether the legislation would require any additional training beyond the concealed carry permit.

Kidwell’s answer: No.

“This bill simply says if they have a concealed carry permit, they can carry. And this is not just for the General Assembly. This is also for when you are out in public,” he said.

“The use of firearms in an environment like the General Assembly or other places does require in my mind more training than is provided in the concealed carry [class]” explained Rep. Martin. “Without that sort of training, I would actually feel less safe if this bill were to pass than it would without it.”

To obtain a conceal carry permit, the holder would need to complete an eight hour class plus range qualifications.

Rep. Mike Clampitt (R-Swain) said he felt the need for more protection on the campaign trail, and started wearing a bulletproof vest.

“It’s not so much here. It’s for when we are away from here. It’s for our protection. It’s for our family’s protection.”

Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union) said he could see no reason that state legislators should undergo additional training that is not required of judges or DAs.

“This is not an extraordinary thing. It’s simple common sense,”  offered Arp. “My question is why in the world would you deny that to someone who has a concealed carry permit?”

House Bill 47 advanced on a divided voice vote and now moves to the State Government Committee.

NC Senate’s gutting of bill that would end child marriage is an outrage

North Carolina is one of just two states that allow children as young as 14 to marry. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

In case you missed it last week, be sure to check out Policy Watch reporter Yanqi Xu’s news story on the Senate’s gutting of bipartisan legislation (Senate Bill 35) that was designed to end — at long last — North Carolina’s longstanding allowance for child marriage.

Our state and nation have made a lot of important human rights advances in recent decades, but child marriage remains an area in which North Carolina Republican legislative leaders still think it’s 1821, not 2021.

Yes, that’s right, in North Carolina, it’s still legal under many circumstances for 14-year-olds – middle schoolers – to marry. Mind you, they can’t lawfully do dozens of other things like enter into contracts or even buy a lottery ticket, but marriage – even to a much older person who would otherwise be guilty of statutory rape — is perfectly legal.

North Carolina is such an outlier in this area that it’s become a destination location for child marriage.

This is from Xu’s story:

North Carolina laws currently allow minors between 16 and 18 to obtain a marriage license with the consent of their parents or guardians. Children ages 14 to 16 can marry in cases of pregnancy or childbirth, regardless of the other party’s age, when a judge authorizes such marriage.

With neighboring states passing legislation to raise their minimum age requirement for marriage, North Carolina became a holdout, and what some describe as “destination for child marriage.”

And while advocates are pushing legislation this spring to end this disgraceful situation, religious conservatives and their allies in the state Senate recently succeeded in amending the bill to the point that it’s effectively toothless.

Again, this is from Xu’s story:

[Drew] Reisinger, the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, said on Twitter that [Senate leader Phil] Berger insisted on keeping the minimum age at 14, despite advocates’ compromise to raise it to 16 with background checks and court approval.

Reisinger said advocates also tried to add a North Carolina residency requirement, which would prevent cross-border child marriages. However, this motion went nowhere.

“It’s jaw-droppingly out of touch with the modern era, thinking that eighth graders can still be legally allowed to get married in our state,” Reisinger said. “I felt like all of this bipartisan collaborative effort to protect children just totally went away because one man disagreed with it.”

A House measure on the matter — House Bill 41 — hasn’t even received a hearing yet.

The bottom line: As one former victim put it, the words child and marriage should not be in the same sentence. All North Carolinians should be outraged at the present situation and demand that legislators pass the legislation in its original form.

Click here to read the full story.