RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Gov. Roy Cooper (D) is expected to announce changes to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions this week, as Republican lawmakers seek to keep him from acting alone.
Cooper’s latest executive order ends Friday evening.
Bills have been filed in the General Assembly this month to require the governor to seek concurrence from the Council of State for orders related to statewide emergencies lasting longer than 30 days.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic right now. This is a public health crisis. Someone’s got to be responsible for making quick and sure decisions,” Cooper said. “I don’t think it’s time to be making changes in the Emergency (Management) Act in the middle of a pandemic.”
The Council is a group of 10 statewide elected officials, one of which is Cooper.
The current makeup is six Republicans and four Democrats.
Treasurer Dale Folwell (R) is one of the members and has been critical of the lack of input he’s been able to have as Cooper makes decisions about opening and closing businesses and other issues related to the pandemic.
“So many of the issues that are facing the citizens of North Carolina: food insecurity, job insecurity, educational insecurity and health insecurity all fall under the purview of these statewide elected officials,” he said. “We have acts of God that need to be dealt with very quickly, but the fact is most of these executive orders are discussed and thought about for a long period of time.”
When asked about the issue, Cooper noted he’s sought input from health professionals and aimed to balance the risks posed by the virus with the economic harm caused.
“From day one, we’ve followed the advice of healthcare officials. We’ve followed the science and the data. And, if you look at North Carolina as it compares to a number of other states, you will see a lot fewer deaths,” he said.
During last year’s legislative session, the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a variety of bills that were aimed at opening the state faster than Cooper wanted.
Some also dealt with his authority to act in an emergency and sought to have him seek concurrence from the Council of State.
He vetoed those bills.
Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), one of the lead sponsors of the House’s version of the legislation dealing with the governor’s emergency authority, said, “This is not about saying we need to get rid of a certain order now, or we need to change a certain order now. This is about saying one person should not have the ability to shut down businesses, schools and commerce in our state.”
Cooper has sought concurrence from the Council of State at various points in the last year, most recently last week as severe storms approached the state.
Former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) sued Cooper last year over this issue but lost that case and did not pursue an appeal.
Cooper went on to win re-election over Forest.
Meredith College released a poll Monday, in which they asked people about loosening COVID-19 restrictions.
The poll found 64 percent of people support keeping the mask mandate in place, while 30 percent support eliminating it.
When asked whether the state should eliminate restrictions on businesses, 56 percent said no while 37 percent said yes.