Rioters and looters may think twice before destroying a city after North Carolina lawmakers approved new legislation to make their punishments more severe.
Earlier this week, lawmakers advanced House Bill 40 in the state's Senate to toughen punishments for violent protests for the second time in three years.
The legislation is a direct result of the destructive protests North Carolina endured in 2020 following the death of George Floyd.
The 27-16 vote brings a potential showdown with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who successfully vetoed a similar measure two years ago. However, in November, Republicans gained enough House seats to override a veto as long as one House Democrat joins them and the GOP majorities remain united.
Last month, six House Democrats joined all Republicans in voting in favor of the measure, with House Speaker Tim Moore advocating for the bill. The House margin, if left intact, would be veto-proof.
When Cooper vetoed the bill the first time, he claimed it was "unnecessary" and was "intended to intimidate and deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peacefully protest."
Moore urged Cooper to sign the "commonsense bill into law without delay," noting the "rampant increase in crime" in North Carolina and across the nation.
"This is not a solution in search of a problem," Moore said in a statement. "This is to strengthen our laws that, if heaven forbid something happens again ... in our state that there'll be laws on the books, that there'll be teeth there so that those who do this can be held accountable."
The measure would protect the First Amendment of peaceful protestors while keeping them, law enforcement, and property owners safe and would advocate for longer prison sentences. It would also allow property owners whose businesses are damaged during violent protests to seek compensation against a perpetrator equal to three times the monetary damage.
Additionally, those accused of rioting must wait 24 hours before their bond and pretrial release rules are set, giving them time to "cool off" before being released.