RALEIGH — The speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives wants colleagues to override the governor’s veto of a bill ending school mask mandates. It would mark the first time in a year that lawmakers have tried to overturn a gubernatorial veto.
“This isn’t over,” Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, tweeted Friday. “Looking forward to overriding @NC_Governor‘s veto and returning this decision to parents, where it belongs.”
Moore repeated his interest in holding a veto override vote during remarks Saturday at the John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Liberty Conference.
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 173, the Free the Smiles Act, on Thursday. Because the measure originated in the state Senate, that chamber would need to vote on the override first. Only if senators support an override, with a three-fifths majority vote, would the bill head to the House. Then Moore and his House colleagues would have a chance to reconsider the bill.
Free the Smiles crossed the three-fifths (60%) threshold in both chambers on Feb. 17. Seven Democrats joined with Republicans to approve the bill, 76-42 (64%). Two Democratic senators voted “yes” on Free the Smiles as the bill cleared that chamber, 28-17 (62%).
If every senator participates in a veto override vote, Republicans would need both Democrats to stick with their “yes” votes to overcome Cooper’s objection. A veto override could succeed in the House even if four Democrats flip from “yes” to “no.”
Neither chamber has attempted a veto override vote since March 1, 2021. On that date, the Senate voted 29-20 to override Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 37. It would have guaranteed public school students access to in-person learning. The measure fell one vote short of success.
Before Cooper intervened, the Senate had approved the S.B. 37, 31-16. Three Democratic senators — Ben Clark, Kirk deViere, and Paul Lowe — had supported the bill. Only deViere voted yes on the veto override. Lowe voted no, and Clark missed the vote with an excused absence. Because the override failed in the Senate, the House never addressed the veto.
Cooper has vetoed 17 bills in the past year. Neither chamber has taken a vote on a veto override during that time.
The House has not considered a veto override vote since July 8, 2020. On that date, Republican leaders placed three different vetoed bills on the House floor. All three failed to meet the three-fifths threshold for an override. The defeated measures addressed concealed-carry handgun permits, July 4 celebration protocols, and reopening exercise and fitness centers closed because of COVID-19.
The General Assembly has not voted successfully to override a Cooper veto since Dec. 27, 2018. On that date, lawmakers overcame the governor’s objections to two bills. One dealt with elections administration. The other made technical corrections to previous legislation.
Five days after those successful veto override votes, on Jan. 1, 2019, Republicans lost veto-proof supermajorities in the House and Senate. With GOP supermajorities, the General Assembly had voted to override 23 of Cooper’s first 28 vetoes.
Since Jan. 1, 2019, Cooper has vetoed 43 bills. Not counting Free the Smiles, the previous 42 vetoes have been sustained.