State leaders were called back to Raleigh this week with the sole purpose of voting in an attempt to override several vetoes from Governor Roy Cooper regarding reopening businesses in North Carolina. With hospitalizations surpassing 1,000 across the state, 15 Democrats, who had previously been in favor of opening businesses such as bars and gyms, changed their votes to side with the Governor.
House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson, a Democrat from Wake County, said that many Democrats changed their votes this week versus when they voted for the bill in June because the number of Coronavirus cases has continued to increase throughout the state. As of Thursday afternoon, North Carolina’s case count was just under 80,000 and averaged an 8-10% positive test result based on the number of tests conducted.
The four vetoes upheld in House or Senate votes involved bills responding to some of Cooper’s decisions limiting business activities or mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gyms, bars, skating rinks and other venues, some of which were addressed in these vetoed bills, have been closed by Cooper since March. However, there is hope for the businesses to reopen if courts intervene, which was the case this week involving bowling alleys. With lawsuits still pending in the courts from groups representing both bars and gyms – it is possible that a ruling similar to the bowling alley ruling will allow them to open before the Governor gives his approval during Phase 3 – which is yet to have a start date.
A fifth veto — on a bill addressing concealed carry inside certain churches — also was upheld. The debate regarding concealed carry revolves around churches which also operate as schools. Currently, concealed carry is allowed in churches, but not on school property, so if a school is also a church, concealed carry is not permitted.
The vetoed legislation also included a change to the authority of the Governor. Lawmakers proposed rewriting sections of the state’s emergency management statutes to require the governor get concurrence from the Council of State before declaring a state of emergency. The Council of State in North Carolina is the governor and other elected officials, such as the lieutenant governor, state treasurer and attorney general, not all of whom are from the same political party as the governor.
The measure was specifically put into the bill because it would have required public health officials to get Council of State—a bipartisan group—concurrence before closing specific businesses or types deemed an imminent health hazard.
The General Assembly isn’t expected to reconvene again until after the Labor Day Holiday.