RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On March 10, 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency as a step in North Carolina’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, after more than 450 days, some Republican lawmakers in the state are wondering when the governor will end the emergency declaration.
“The health and safety of North Carolinians is our top priority. We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that North Carolina is prepared and responding to this virus, and this order helps us do that,” Cooper said after making the declaration. “Though we are still in the early stages in North Carolina, time is a valuable resource and we must work together to slow the spread while we can.”
On Tuesday, a letter to Cooper composed by House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne) and House Deputy Majority Whip Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) was released.
The two called on him to provide specific details for why the emergency declaration still exists after 15 months.
“North Carolina has now been under a self-declared state of emergency for over 450 days,” the letter states. “In response to a question about ending your emergency order during a June 2 press conference, you said, ‘We are still in the middle of this pandemic’ and ‘The State of Emergency needs to continue.’ We believe this is unsatisfactory.”
Neighboring state leaders are planning to end their respective emergency declarations. On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced an end to the state’s COVID-19 declaration. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently said he will not extend the state’s emergency declaration when it expires on June 30.
The letter continues, “There seems to be no urgency or plan to end the state of emergency. We believe this is unsatisfactory. The people of North Carolina have worked extremely hard to follow and adhere to social distancing guidelines and restrictions. They deserve more information and transparency in this process.”
Representatives Bell and Kidwell are primary sponsors of House Bill 264, “Emergency Powers Accountability Act,” which strengthens current law to require the governor to seek the concurrence of the Council of State when issuing a statewide declaration of emergency beyond thirty days. The legislation passed the House on March 31 with only Republicans in support.
“Clearly, there needs to be a discussion about the endless duration of power that is granted to the Governor during a self-declared state of emergency,” Leader Bell said when the bill passed. “This legislation is not about politics – it is about clarifying the law to restore accountability and ensure stronger bipartisan input. The Governor was never intended to have such absolute authority, especially for an unlimited time.”
For now, the lawmakers say the goal of their letter is to at least get “specific details on how and when the state of emergency can be lifted.”