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Gov. Cooper vetoes charter school oversight, building code legislation

NC Governor Roy Cooper
Matt Ramey
for WUNC
NC Governor Roy Cooper speaks before Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a panel discussion on Hispanic Small Business at Fletcher Opera House in Raleigh, N.C.

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed two bills that would make changes to charter school oversight and the state's building code.

Republican lawmakers want to change who's responsible for approving charter schools. That power currently belongs to the State Board of Education, which is largely appointed by the governor. The bill Cooper vetoed would move approval power to a Charter School Review Board that's mostly appointed by the legislature.

The governor says that's an unconstitutional power grab.

"The North Carolina Constitution clearly gives the State Board of Education the oversight authority for public schools, including charter schools," Cooper said in a news release. "This bill is a legislative power grab that turns that responsibility over to a commission of political friends and extremists appointed by Republican legislators, making it more likely that faulty or failing charter schools will be allowed to operate and shortchange their students."

Supporters of the bill note that decisions on charter school approvals could still be appealed to the State Board of Education. The review board would be a new version of the current Charter School Advisory Board.

The other vetoed bill would block changes to the building code, including an effort to require more energy efficiency standards in new construction. Opponents of the standards say the change could make homes more expensive.

Cooper disagrees with that claim, and says the bill is also unconstitutional because it would reduce the governor's appointment power on the Building Code Council. It would create a separate Residential Code Council with a mix of appointees from the legislature and the governor — with a new requirement that nine of 13 members approve any council action, rather than the usual simple majority.

"This bill stops important work to make home construction safer from disaster and more energy efficient, and ultimately will cost homeowners and renters more money," he said. "The bill also imperils North Carolina’s ability to qualify for FEMA funds by freezing residential building code standards."

Republicans likely have the votes to override both vetoes, and they've already scheduled tentative House override votes for other recent vetoes for next week.

Cooper also signed 11 other bills into law on Friday and will let two others become law without his signature. Those include measure to:

  • Require parental consent for teens under age 18 who want to donate blood
  • Allow families with more than five children at home to take in foster children
  • Create threat assessment teams in public schools
  • Expand trespassing laws to include anyone who's directly outside a home on private property in the middle of the night
  • Create new criminal penalties for firing a gun at an unoccupied public safety vehicle
Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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