Raleigh, N.C. — On a party-line vote, the state Senate gave tentative approval Monday to a bill banning law enforcement from recognizing community identification cards and threatening state funding of any city or county that violates that ban.
House Bill 100 would also set up an anonymous complaint process at the Attorney General's Office. The office, with the help of the State Bureau of Investigation, would be required to investigate any complaint that a local or county government is recognizing non-official or community IDs. If they're found to be in violation of the ban, cities would lose their Powell Bill transportation funding for the next budget year, while counties would lose their lottery school construction funding.
"There’s not a lot we can do about immigration. What we can do, I think, our citizens expect us to do," said sponsor Sen. Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico. "Let’s just hope for the best out of this, that if one city decides to break the law in North Carolina, that those that are coming after will decide not to."
"This bill strips law enforcement of the ability to use a trusted id to positively identify someone," said Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford.
Greensboro police have been a partner in a community ID program run by nonprofit Faith Action.
"This is a scare tactic. It’s a mean, ugly bill," Robinson said. "If the intent is to protect our communities, then our law enforcement people are the experts. I would think we would trust their expertise."
Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, warned the allegations that the Attorney General's Office will be required to investigate "are unsworn and in some instances even anonymous."
"We don’t even know what the AG will be investigating," Bryant said. "It will involve, at some level, investigating citizens."
She said the measure is unnecessarily punitive toward local governments: "We’re taking a sledgehammer to hit a gnat."
Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, defended the legislation against Democrats' assertions it would make the state appear hostile to immigrants and minorities.
"When I have new neighbors, I bring them a pie. I don’t bring them a fake ID," Newton said. "This is an effort to stop fake IDs, so let’s call it what it is."
Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, said the proposal gives far too much executive power to the attorney general, who he said would become "judge, jury, and executioner for every county’s education and transportation systems."
"The possibility of abuse of power is immense," Jackson argued. "Don’t play politics for the moment. You are passing a generational piece of legislation."
But Sen. Ron Rabin, R-Harnett, said it was "crystal clear" to him and his constituents that the states must crack down on illegal immigration in the absence of federal action.
"We have to do something to get immigration under control," Rabin said, "or we lose our sovereignty and our ability to function as a nation."
The measure passed its initial vote 32-17. It's scheduled for a final Senate vote Tuesday. After that, it will need to go back to the House.