Report from Jones Street: The Mood at Crossover

By Laura DeVivo
NC Sierra Club Lobbyist

The North Carolina General Assembly convened in January with a plan to adjourn by midsummer. We are now unofficially halfway through the session, with both the House and Senate offering their budget proposals, and the “crossover” deadline out of the way as of Thursday, May 4.

The 2022 elections gave Republicans a supermajority in the Senate - a preponderance of seats that means that, by voting along party lines, they can override any veto by Gov. Roy Cooper. The recent defection of Mecklenburg County Democrat Tricia Cotham gave the GOP a supermajority in the House as well. This means Cooper must win the support of all Democrats and at least a few Republicans to uphold any veto. We just saw the impact in action with S20, "Care for Women, Children, and Families Act," which bans abortion after 12 weeks. Cooper vetoed the measure, but the Senate and House both voted along party lines Tuesday to override.

Cooper is at least winning support to make good on his top priority of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. The House, Senate and governor agreed to a Medicaid expansion plan contingent on enactment of the state budget. The House budget was approved in early April, and the Senate's version dropped on Monday. The chambers will work out their differences in conference, with a final budget anticipated in June.

While these bills have grabbed the spotlight, your N.C. Sierra Club team has been busy focusing on legislation that would affect North Carolina’s environmental protections and the democratic process.

Here's some of the legislation we've been following that survived "crossover," the deadline by which most bills must be approved by at least one chamber to remain alive during this session.

TAKE ACTION NOW: You can help us fight these two bad bills:

As the session progresses, keep an eye out for action alerts on other legislation we're tracking, including the following. We'll share action alerts on our website and via social media and email:

  • H40, Preventing Rioting and Civil Disorder: Increases penalties for rioting or inciting a riot and creates a lower threshold to meet the definition of a riot. STATUS: Enacted into law without the governor's signature on March 21.
  • H128, Electric Vehicle Highway Use Equalization Tax: Requires owners of electric vehicles to make an annual payment in support of state highway system maintenance in lieu of not paying the fuel excise tax. STATUS: Referred to House Transportation Committee.
  • H177, DEQ Omnibus. This is the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality's administrative clean-up bill. The N.C. Sierra Club and other allies have been on regular check-in calls with DEQ staff about various provisions in, and ways we can support, the bill. STATUS: Passed the House at the end of April, referred to Senate Rules Committee
  • H198, DOT Changes, was requested by the state Department of Transportation and makes several changes to that agency's operations. But it also revives efforts to "bigfoot" local governments when it comes to protecting trees near billboards - an area where we succeeded two sessions ago thanks to Governor Cooper's veto and the absence of a veto-proof legislative majority. The new legislation again would override local government rules to restrict tree-cutting around billboards, allowing the billboard industry to double the tree-cutting area around its signs along state roads. In addition, this version would allow the cutting of native redbuds, which have been protected in past legislation. STATUS: Passed the House on May 2, referred to Senate Rules Committee.
  • H370, Responsible Firefighting Foam Management Act, unanimously passed the House before the crossover deadline. This bill is very similar to a measure that also won bipartisan House support in the 2020-21 session, but never saw Senate action. It would prohibit the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS for training or for testing except with appropriate containment and disposal methods. We support this measure as part of our efforts to stop PFAS pollution and hold polluters, such as Chemours, responsible for cleaning it up. STATUS: Passed the House in late April, referred to Senate Rules Committee.
  • H535, Solar Capacity Limit Increase, would help expand clean energy by increasing the amount of authorized solar on Duke Energy and Progress Energy’s systems. STATUS: Passed the House on May 3, referred to Senate Rules Committee.
  • H579, Amend Certain DEQ/EPA Agreements and Proceedings, is a problematic bill that eliminates state permits and adoption of federal regulations by reference, and creates an Environmental Policy Council that purportedly would balance interests between environmentalism and conservation with developers. The board's duties would include evaluating efficacy and costs of regulations. STATUS: Referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform in late April.
  • S582, North Carolina Farm Act of 2023. Every session, legislators create an omnibus bill to support North Carolina's agricultural community. This year's version includes a good provision requiring buffers for trout streams. But it also would change the definition of “wetlands” to match the federal standard, which is currently in flux and has legal experts concerned about its weakening effect. STATUS: Passed the Senate at the end of April, referred to the House Agriculture Committee.
  • S678, Promote Clean Energy, defines nuclear energy as renewable energy, which is contrary to the Sierra Club's longstanding position on nuclear power. STATUS: Passed the Senate at the end of April, referred to the House Rules Committee.


The south face of the N.C. Legislative Building is shown in a wide-angle view