How WNC Lawmakers Voted On Driver Immunity Bill

Aug 15, 2017

A bill passed by the North Carolina House of Representatives that would protect drivers who injure protesters with their car while "exercising due care" is getting renewed attention in the wake of last weekend's deadly Virginia protests.  

A car sped into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, killing 32-year old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.  The suspect is 20-year old James Alex Fields, Jr.  He's reported to have had admiration for Nazis.  

HB330 is likely stalled in the Senate, according to the News & Observer of Raleigh.  

It would grant immunity from civil liability to "A person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in a public street or highway."  

The bill clarifies "A person shall not be immune from civil liability if the actions leading to the injury were willful or wanton."  That means the suspect in Virginia's attack would not be protected.  But critics questioned the message the bill would send when it was originally introduced in the wake of protests over a police shooting in Charlotte.  

The following western North Carolina lawmakers voted in favor (it passed 67-48), all Republicans:

Rep. Mike Clampitt (Bill sponsor), Rep. Kevin Corbin, Rep. Cody Henson, and Rep. Michele Presnell

The following western Noth Carolina lawmakers voted against: 

Rep. Chuck McGrady (R), Rep. John Ager (D), Rep. Susan Fisher (D), Rep. Brian Turner (D)

*Republican Rep. Josh Dobson was absent.  

BPR sent a message seeking comment to each of the legislative e-mails of the members voting "yes," but after 24 hours, none had responded (lawmakers are not currently in session).  E-mails to WNC Senators also went unreturned.  

The N&O report highlights a statement released by the bill's primary sponsors, Republican Reps. Justin Burr and Chris Millis:

“It is intellectually dishonest and a gross mischaracterization to portray North Carolina House Bill 330 as a protection measure for the act of violence that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend,” the statement says.

“Any individual who committed a deliberate or willful act, such as what happened this weekend in Charlottesville, would face appropriately severe criminal and civil liabilities,” it continues.

“We denounce the violence, racism, and acts displayed in Charlottesville that run antithetical to American ideals of peaceful demonstration and the right to free speech. Our thoughts and prayers are with those killed and injured, their families, and our nation as we grieve the tragic events perpetuated by those that wish to divide us.”