Raleigh, N.C. – The North Carolina Senate will vote today on “clean” bills to reopen playgrounds, gyms, bars, and other businesses.
Council of State concurrence has been a key statutory check on the Governor’s emergency authority for decades. In this emergency, Gov. Roy Cooper has ignored the legal requirement to obtain Council of State concurrence when shuttering businesses.
Even though Council of State concurrence has historically been a key feature of emergency statutes for decades, Democrats cited that provision as their reason for opposing previous reopening bills.
For example, Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) said during floor debate on June 9, “I would like to support a bill that had outdoor seating for restaurants … and to help our bars and our gyms, but where the Governor whom we elected is in charge … If you had a safety switch, which is Gov. Cooper, this is a bill I could support.”
Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg) said during the same floor debate on June 9 she opposed the last reopening bill because, “We need our Governor, with the help of DHHS, to be able to shut [bars, restaurants, and gyms] back down and do it quickly.”
During House debate Wednesday on overriding Gov. Cooper’s veto of the previous reopening bill, Deputy Democratic House Leader Rep. Robert Reives (D-Durham) said, “Just run a straight bill. Help these folks out.”
And the only reason Gov. Cooper gave in his veto message for his opposition to reopening gyms and bars is that the bill would “tie the hands of public health officials … Officials must be able to take swift action,” and the bill “could restrict leaders who need to respond quickly.”
Thursday, the Senate voted on reopening bills that do not include Council of State concurrence. These new bills remove the entire rationale provided by Gov. Cooper in his veto message.
Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), who sponsored many of the reopening bills the legislature has considered, said, “I’m sick of Democrats hiding behind technical disagreements about the separation of powers. Thousands of people’s livelihoods hinge on whether they can reopen their businesses, and that consideration is more important that squabbles about power. These new bills strip the Governor and the Democrats of the objection they’ve lodged to the reopening bills. Enough is enough – let’s get these businesses open.”
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “Every state that borders North Carolina has reopened gyms and bars. The Governor can walk maskless with a group of protesters, but won’t let you take your son or daughter to the playground. These inconsistencies continue to eat away at trust in his administration.”
Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell) said, “The state needs to treat all businesses equally. A ‘dimmer switch’ should apply to every light, not a select few.”