When Senator Fletcher Hartsell signed Senate Bill 750 on May 28, 2009, he became since at least 1945 the first rank and file Senator to sign a bill as part of the enrollment and ratification process. The North Carolina Constitution in Article II, Section 22 requires the “presiding officer” of each house to sign the bill before it becomes law. The signature is the certification of the presiding officer that the enrolled bill, a transcribed and substituted copy, is the same as the bill that passed both houses of the General Assembly. After ratification, public bills move on to the Governor’s office for action, while local bills (those affecting 15 or fewer counties) become law when the second presiding officer signs.
Hartsell signs a bill
The North Carolina Constitution of 1776 required the Speakers of both houses to sign legislation (there was no Lieutenant Governor back then, and the Senate elected a Speaker just like the House). The Constitution of 1868 substituted a requirement that the “presiding officer” sign the bills. It was not until 1947 that the Senate adopted a rule on the subject, prescribing that only the President of the Senate could sign bills, an authority expanded to the President Pro Tempore in 1985 and to the Deputy President Pro Tempore in 1999. Finally, the 2009 Senate amended Rule 66 to allow the President Pro Tempore to designate another Senator as presiding officer to sign bills and resolutions. Whether any rank-and-file Senator signed any bills between 1868 and 1945 is unknown.
In the House, the matter is different. House Rule 55 allows the Speaker “or other presiding officer” to sign bills, while Rule 6 allows the Speaker to designate another member to preside. It is not the custom for the Speaker to designate someone other than the Speaker Pro Tempore to sign bills, however. Our database shows the names of all bill signatories since 1991, since then only Session Law 2003-11 was signed by in the House by someone other than the Speaker or Speaker Pro Tempore. (The House had two Speakers that session, they alternated signing bills on the day they were Speaker, but on April 10, 2003 Richard T. Morgan signed a bill on a day Jim Black was Speaker, so he signed it as “presiding officer”.)