Gov. Cooper vetoes bills aimed at reopening several N.C. businesses during pandemic

Gov. Cooper vetoes bills aimed at reopening several N.C. businesses during pandemic
The bills would have reopened gyms, fitness centers, skating rinks, bowling alleys, amusement parks and entertainment venues. One of the bills would have also allowed for parades and fireworks shows that could violate Phase 2 restrictions. (Source: Roy Cooper/Twitter)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed bills that would have allowed several different businesses to reopen in the state during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 599, House Bill 806, House Bill 258 and House Bill 686. State lawmakers previously passed these bills to lift restrictions faster than Gov. Cooper’s executive orders.

The bills would have reopened gyms, fitness centers, skating rinks, bowling alleys, amusement parks and entertainment venues. One of the bills would have also allowed for parades and fireworks shows that could violate Phase 2 restrictions.

Senate Bill 599 was aimed at reopening skating rinks and bowling alleys. Gov. Cooper shared a statement on his decision to veto it.

“Tying the hands of public health and executive branch officials in times of pandemic is dangerous, especially when case counts and hospitalizations are rising at a concerning rate. As we see in other states with surging COVID-19 case counts, state and local officials must be able to take swift action during this emergency to prevent a surge of patients from overwhelming hospitals and endangering the lives of North Carolinians. At this critical time, opening bowling alleys, skating rinks, and other indoor entertainment facilities runs contrary to both the troubling trends regarding COVID-19 deaths in North Carolina as well as scientific and medical data, which establishes that COVID-19 is significantly more likely to be transmitted in these settings. Bowling alleys and skating rinks exhibit many of the risk factors under the best available scientific and medical data. In these places, people gather in close proximity, are indoors with recirculating air, stay in the space for extended period of time, and engage in physical exertion. Opening these higher-risk facilities would spread COVID-19 and endanger the State’s flexibility to open the public schools. Given the rapidly evolving nature of this pandemic, executive officials are best positioned to make emergency determinations about public health. The bill is intended to restrict leaders who need to respond quickly to outbreaks and new scientific information to protect public health and safety,” Gov. Cooper said.

House Bill 806 was aimed at reopening gyms, including exercise and fitness facilities. House Bill 258 was aimed at reopening amusement parks, arcades and entertainment venues. House Bill 686 was aimed at allowing parades and fireworks shows that possibly violate Phase 2 restrictions.

The governor issued a statement talking about his decision to veto these three bills.

“Tying the hands of public health officials in times of pandemic is dangerous, especially when case counts and hospitalizations are rising. State and local officials must be able to take swift action during the COVID-19 emergency to prevent a surge of patients from overwhelming hospitals and endangering the lives of North Carolinians. The bill could restrict leaders who need to respond quickly to outbreaks and protect public health and safety,” Gov. Cooper said.

Cooper also vetoed Senate Bill 105 which would require agreement from the rest of the Council of State for some orders. He issued a statement on the veto of this bill as well.

“The Emergency Management Act clearly provides the Governor with statutory authority to direct the state’s response to a public health emergency that could affect the entire state’s population. A devastating pandemic, like COVID-19, threatens the state’s people and warrants providing the state’s chief executive have the authority to manage the state’s response by placing prohibitions and restrictions on activities that threaten public health and safety. The legislators who foresaw such challenges were right to vest that authority with the Governor, so that government can respond quickly and on a statewide basis to emergencies as they evolve. Placing additional bureaucratic and administrative obligations on the declaration of a state of emergency is a substantial change in the law, frustrates executive branch officials’ ability to quickly and efficiently respond to such an emergency by requiring the concurrence of officials with limited involvement in managing the response, and would risk diverting focus from responding to such an emergency.” Gov. Cooper said.

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