COVID-19, Governor Roy Cooper, News

House, Senate pass legislation to reopen bars, as Cooper raises new COVID concerns

Image: Adobe Stock

Members of the state House and Senate gave their blessing Thursday to legislation that would override Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order and allow bars to reopen and serve beverages outdoors.

House Bill 536 will permit bar owners to serve customers outdoors temporarily at 50 percent of their indoor capacity.

Establishments with an ABC permit would be required to enforce social distancing to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

Supporters say the legislation is a lifeline for businesses struggling to recover after being shuttered for weeks.

Gov. Cooper told reporters Thursday that the legislation has the potential to hurt public health.

“This legislation means that even if there is a surge of COVID-19 that would overwhelm our hospitals, that bars still stay open,” explained Cooper. “There will be a time that we can open bars, but that time is not now.”

Two hours later the state House followed the Senate in passing (65-53) the measure.

Rep. Pat McElraft

Rep. Pat McElraft (R- Carteret) told her colleagues that the coastal communities she represents only have a few short months to maximize their earnings with tourists.

“In Carteret County we had 35 positive COVID patients, three deaths. Those three deaths were already in hospice, in their 80s and 90s. We are not a hot spot.”

Rep. Michael Speciale

Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven) said his support of the bill had very little to do with alcohol sales.

“I disagree with the governor. I, Mike Speciale, disagree from a freedom perspective. Do I have all the answers from a medical perspective? No. But neither does the governor,” asserted Speciale.

Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Craven, Beaufort) also took aim at the governor’s executive order.

“In the United States you have the right to the fruits of your labor,” said Kidwell. “The governor does not have the authority under our laws, under our state constitution or under our federal constitution to do what he has done.”

Rep. Darren Jackson

House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake), whose wife works in a hospital, tried to persuade his colleagues to slow down and not disregard the governor’s staggered plan for reopening the state.

“We are at an all time high in the number of deaths. We are at an all time high in the number of hospitalizations.”

Click below to hear more of Jackson’s emotional appeal:

HB 536 now heads to the governor’s desk.

On Thursday the state Department of Health and Human Services announced that the state had surpassed 25,000 positive cases of the coronavirus with 827 deaths, 33 more than one day earlier.

 

COVID-19, Governor Roy Cooper

At-a-glance: Governor Cooper’s three phases to re-opening North Carolina

Gov. Roy Cooper has extended North Carolina’s Stay At Home order through May 8.

Today’s order also extends the closure of restaurants for dine-in service and bars and the closure of other close-contact businesses through the first full week in May.

Cooper shared details about North Carolina’s three-phase plan to lift restrictions in the coming weeks when the data shows that North Carolina’s cases of COVID-19 and other key metrics are headed in the right direction.

Read the governor’s latest Executive Order.

Here’s North Carolina’s plan at-a-glance:

Source: NCDHHS

COVID-19, Governor Roy Cooper, News

NC Governor signs executive ‘stay at home’ order that starts at 5 p.m. Monday

Gov. Roy Cooper

Starting at 5 p.m. Monday, North Carolinians will be forced to stay in their homes for a month in an effort to slow the community spread of COVID-19, which is a pandemic.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced today that he signed an executive “stay at home” order. There are exceptions to the order, including for health and safety care and engagement, outdoor activities (with proper social distancing) and employees who need to go to a job that is considered essential by the state. Residents can also obtain necessary supplies and services from grocery stores or restaurants (take-out and delivery only).

The state has confirmed 763 positive cases of COVID-19 in 60 counties. There have been three deaths and 77 people hospitalized. Cooper said during a Friday afternoon press conference that there is widespread community transmission of the virus, which is why he signed the order.

“These are tough directives, but I need you to take them seriously,” Cooper said. “Although we are physically apart, we must take this step together in spirit. Even if you don’t think you have to worry about yourself, consider our nurses, doctors, custodial staff and other hospital workers who will be stretched beyond their capacity if we are unable to slow the spread of this disease.”

The executive order will be in effect for 30 days. If there are counties that already have stay at home orders, whichever one is more strict is the one residents have to comply with. All orders are enforceable by law, and Cooper said at the press conference that not complying with the statewide order is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

“We hope it doesn’t come to that,” he said of detaining individuals who don’t follow the order. “But we want people to know that this is a serious order.”

Read the full text of the order below.



EO121 Stay at Home Order 3 (Text)

Commentary, Governor Roy Cooper, Legislature

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline investigation: Much ado about … something?

The General Assembly’s hired investigators. (Photo: WRAL livestream)

There are too many reasons to mention why we should be skeptical of the N.C. General Assembly’s keen interest in Gov. Roy Cooper’s handling of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline permitting.

Republican lawmakers went full Barnum & Bailey last year when they attempted to extract pipeline details from Lee Lilley, Cooper’s newly-named director of legislative affairs, during a budget committee meeting. Indeed, legislators in the GOP caucus had, clearly, been watching too many episodes of Perry Mason.

And be sure that our party-obsessed Republican leadership considered political affiliation when they hired Wilmington-based Eagle Intel last year to conduct the probe at a cost of about $83,000 in public money. As Policy Watch’s Lisa Sorg wrote last December, two are registered Republicans. The third is unaffiliated.

That said, there are key questions asked here about how controversial — and yes, highly political — projects are permitted. We should be asking how such projects are arrived at in both Republican and Democratic administrations. Are political and economic concerns relevant in such permits? If so, how are they measured against the pressing environmental concerns that should be paramount to the officials in Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality?

According to the General Assembly’s investigators, based on communications between Duke Energy officials, “it would be reasonable to conclude that Governor Cooper improperly used the authority and influence of his Office” to coerce the pipeline’s owners into a $57.8 million mitigation fund, although they do not offer any conclusive evidence of that nature.

Duke Energy denies it, and so does the governor’s office. And here’s this important kernel from Sorg’s story this morning:

As Policy Watch reported this year, the governor’s office and DEQ did coordinate on the timing of their respective announcements, based on communication in public records. But there is no proof in the public record that the permit approval hinged on the fund.

It is a striking coincidence that Republicans in Raleigh are searching desperately for evidence of “quid pro quo” but their counterparts in Washington, D.C., haven’t a passing interest in uncovering such a thing.

Later in their conclusions, the investigators wrote that “the information suggests that criminal violations may have occurred.” But after tossing that bombshell, they acknowledged Wednesday they had not reviewed state and federal statutes because their investigation was convened to consider civil matters.

Gov. Roy Cooper

According to WRAL, they arrived at that conclusion “based on the inconsistencies they found in people’s statements and actions, which in their experience as federal agents suggests wrongdoing.”

All due respect to their experience, but such a statement seems ill-conceived or partisan in intent unless there is something to back up that assertion.

It is the sort of thing that, without evidence, seems engineered to be a pull-quote in a campaign ad because it is rendered in an “official” report.

Are we really to proceed with such a Molotov cocktail of a conclusion based on what can be accurately described as a hunch?

That, frankly, will not do.

This whole affair is much ado about something. But it is stunning how little we can conclude about that “something” after this 82-page report.

Commentary, Education, Governor Roy Cooper, Legislature

N.C. GOP official disputes account of suffering teacher, gets dunked on by Rep. Deb Butler

Rep. Deb Butler

(Note: This post originally published Wednesday morning on the “Notes from the Chalkboard” blog, which is maintained by Charlotte teacher and K-12 activist Justin Parmenter.)

After the N.C. Republican Party Communications Director questioned the veracity of her account of a public school teacher not having enough money for food and gas, Representative Deb “I Will Not Yield” Butler responded to his public records request by publishing the teacher’s entire heartbreaking email on Twitter.

Tuesday evening, Brunswick/New Hanover County Representative Deb Butler posted the following tweet:

Shortly after her tweet, Butler’s legislative assistant Tayler Williams received an email from North Carolina Republican Party Communications Director Jeff Hauser.  Hauser was making a formal records request that Butler turn over the email she claimed to have received from the teacher.

That’s right.  The N.C. GOP didn’t believe a North Carolina teacher could be struggling to this degree.

In response to the request, Butler asked the teacher for permission to publish the email in its entirety and posted it on Twitter just an hour after Hauser asked for it.

You can read the gut-wrenching account of this Brunswick County teacher’s financial struggles in its entirety below:

…a local teacher here in Brunswick County, North Carolina.  I wanted to express my concern and frustration over the requirements and qualifications required for any form of public assistance.  I realize that there are large amounts of families that are in tight financial situations but I am having difficulty with the fact that as a state employee who works extremely hard every day and I am not able to receive help.  I am a single mom with zero support from my child’s father. He has been unable to be located and works under the table so I cannot track his employment. I have been denied any form of help, from Medicaid for my daughter to food stamps and childcare vouchers.  I understand that I am employed and I am thankful for this every day but when I submit my information to try to get any assistance, I am denied because my Gross amount of pay is utilized, rather than my take home pay. According to my paycheck, I make $4,840 a month.  This is not accurate. I have to take into consideration that I only get paid 10 times a year and therefore I have set up at Summer Cash account through SECU to help save money for the months I am not paid in the Summer. I take out $600 from each paycheck for that amount which leaves me with $4,240.  I also have supplemental insurances to help cover emergencies since I am the only income for my family. This costs $440.32 a month. I am now at $3,799 a month. Then I have to take into account that I have state, federal, retirement, social security, and medicare taken from my paycheck for the amount of $1,070.89.  I am now bringing home $2,728.79. With my take home pay, I have monthly bills that I have to pay. I pay $975 a month in rent, $130 in utilities, my phone bill is $143, car insurance is $100, insurance for my daughters health and dental is $84. I have student loan payments at $336 a month. I have personal loan payments each month from trying to cover months that I was extremely in debt.  These total $393. I have to pay day care each week at $90 a week so on average that is $405. I am at $162.79 left. I also have credit card payments each month that cost $156.00. I have $6.79 left in my bank account to now cover gas, groceries, and miscellaneous items that always arise. I am currently in debt from not being able to pay all of my bills each month. I am $504 in debt to one student loan company and $672 to another.  My bank account currently sits at $0.64. I have another week before payday.

If you would so willing to help explain to me what I can do about this I would greatly appreciate it.  I am trying extremely hard each month to make it day to day. I often go without food in order to make sure that my daughter is provided for.  I depend on the charity of friends to help cook me dinner with leftovers since they know how hard I am struggling. I have sold off everything I can in my household to try to supplement my income and I try to pick up babysitting jobs or tutoring to make ends meet.  I am asking for your help as my local representative with this. I know I am not the only teacher in this situation. I realize that some strides are being taken to help with teacher pay but I need help now. If I would be able to get any kind of assistance I would be more than grateful.

It’s hard to imagine being less in tune to the realities of life for a North Carolina public school teacher than the Republican Party is right now.  Earlier this month our General Assembly passed a bill which was inaccurately titled the “Strengthening Educators’ Pay Act.” The legislation would have given teachers in years 0-15 no raise at all for the next two years and approximately $50 a month more to the majority of experienced teachers at 16 years and up.

That bill was so insulting to North Carolina’s educators, especially when paired with the massive corporate tax cut passed around the same time, that Governor Cooper vetoed it and asked the legislature to do better.  Cooper even offered to negotiate salary increases for educators independent of the Medicaid expansion issue, which has been at the heart of our four month budget impasse. The General Assembly responded by adjourning until mid-January.

When North Carolina teachers have to go hungry in order to provide for their children, you know the problem has gotten really bad. When a high-ranking representative of the majority party refuses to accept that reality, it’s clear that relying on our state legislature to step up and do the right thing is probably not realistic.  It’s an incredibly sad state of affairs.

At this point all we can really do is hope that better days lie ahead.