RALEIGH, N.C. – Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday that he had allowed two bills passed by the General Assembly to become law without his signature.

One of them was a redux from a bill he vetoed – and the legislature upheld – in 2021: House Bill 40, called the “Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder Act.”

Gov. Roy Cooper outlines his proposed Fiscal Year 2023-25 budget on Wednesday (WGHP)

”I acknowledge that changes were made to modify this legislation’s effect after my veto of a similar bill last year,” Cooper said in a statement. “Property damage and violence are already illegal and my continuing concerns about the erosion of the First Amendment and the disparate impacts on communities of color will prevent me from signing this legislation.”

He also allowed Senate Bill 53, the “Hotel Safety Issues” bill, to become law.

“This bill was given broad support in the legislature, and there are potential positive modifications being discussed by legislators,” he said. “However safe housing is sometimes only available from temporary shelters such as hotels, and I remain concerned that this bill will legalize unfair treatment for those who need protection, and this will prevent me from signing it.”

HB 40 makes it a felony if a person inciting a riot brandishes a deadly weapon, causes someone to die or damages property by more than $2,500. Victims of riot damage also can get greater compensation for their affected property.

There also are broader requirements for bail and pretrial release for those involved in rioting and looting.

When Cooper vetoed a similar bill in 2021, he said laws were in place to punish those guilty of committing crimes during riots.

“But this legislation is unnecessary and is intended to intimidate and deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peacefully protest,” he said.

HB 40 passed the House by a vote of 75-43, and Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-High Point) was one of six Democrats to vote for it. No Republicans voted against it. Some Democrats had said they would have voted to override Cooper’s veto, if that had become necessary.

In the Senate, the margin was 27-16, with Sen. Mary Wills Bode (D-Wake) the only Democrat to vote yes, although three missed the vote. No Republican senator voted no.

House Speaker Tim Moore released a statement to celebrate the passage of the bill.

“Nearly three years after violent protests devastated communities and businesses in North Carolina, I am pleased that this bipartisan legislation will finally become law,” Moore said. “While the First Amendment guarantees the right to peacefully protest, those who hijack otherwise peaceful demonstrations to cause chaos and destruction in our communities must be held accountable, and law enforcement must have our support to do just that.

“This bill has had bipartisan support since it was first introduced, and our communities will be safer now that this bill will finally become law.”

Hotel bill

SB 53’s stated intent is to clarify that “occupants of accommodations provided by hotels, motels or similar lodgings” are governed by the statutes related to inns, hotels and other transient occupancies.

That means if someone has a hotel/motel for a permanent residence, the laws apply the same as they would for temporary residents.

This includes RV parks and campgrounds. All of these are used as residences because of problems with sufficient affordable housing in most areas, with a study from 2021 showing a shortfall of nearly 200,000 units statewide.