— Today marks an entire year since Governor Roy Cooper unilaterally put the citizens of North Carolina under a state-wide emergency order
due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, the Governor has exercised absolute power by dictating what businesses can open, how schools can operate and where and when people can gather — without following statutory mandates to consult with the Council of State.
In fact, Gov. Cooper had previously asked for Council of State approval for his first shut down order in March 2020, but then switched legal theories when some Council of State members raised questions.
In response, Representative Keith Kidwell, House Majority Leader John Bell, House Rules Chairman Destin Hall, and Representative Tim Moffitt held a press conference today to announce the introduction of the Emergency Powers Accountability Act
(HB 264) to strengthen and clarify current law to require approval from a majority of the Council of State for emergency actions taken by the Governor.
"This is not a Republican or Democrat issue,"
said Rep. Bell. "We can all agree that COVID-19 has required emergency action. However, the current law granting these emergency powers was simply not written with today's challenges in mind. Our bill will clarify the law to encourage greater bipartisan consensus and ensure stronger oversight and accountability."
The Council of State consists of 10 executive offices established by the state constitution — the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture, Commissioner of Labor, and Commissioner of Insurance.
"Unfortunately, the Governor has chosen to disregard the statuary requirement that mandates him to consult with the Council of State,"
said Rep. Kidwell. "This has allowed him to unilaterally shut down businesses, close schools, and severely limit the lives of North Carolinians through his executive orders. Clearly, this is not how a representative Republic works."
Specifically, the Emergency Powers Accountability Act would require the Governor to seek the concurrence of the Council of State when issuing a statewide declaration of emergency beyond 30 days. For this purpose, statewide would mean an emergency area of 67 or more counties.
"One year ago, most people did not believe that the Governor had the power to shut down an entire state. Most at least assumed there were some checks and balances. Such consequential decisions should be made in a deliberative process with other elected officials,"
said Rep. Hall. "North Carolinians deserve confidence that the unprecedented restrictions placed on their families and businesses are the result of bipartisan consensus, not the absolute power of one man."
The bill would be effective when it becomes law, and any power exercised under a state of emergency or declaration of emergency existing on that date that would require a concurrence of the Council of State, expires two days after the act becomes law unless a concurrence of the Council of State is sought and received.
- Contact: Jimmy Milstead