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Political Notebook: Cooper vetoes bill to reopen bars, allow outdoor seating for restaurants

Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday vetoed a bill passed by the House and Senate, HB 536, that would have reopened bars across the state and allowed outdoor dining at restaurants, whether on a patio or under a tent, while serving at 50% of an establishment’s overall capacity.

The bill would have overturned Cooper’s decision to keep bars closed under Phase Two. Additionally, the bill was passed and sent to Cooper’s desk on May 28, which was less than a week after the state experienced its largest jump in positive COVID-19 cases and a growing number of deaths and hospitalizations.

“State and local government leaders must be able to act quickly during the COVID-19 emergency to prevent a surge in cases that could overwhelm hospitals and harm the public,” said Cooper in a statement. “House Bill 536 would limit the ability of leaders to respond quickly to COVID-19 and hamper the health and safety of every North Carolinian.”

In a Salisbury City Council meeting on June 2, two locals spoke during the public comment period in support of implementing more outside seating for restaurants downtown.

Alyssa Sides said it would benefit restaurant workers and small business owners as more employees would be able to return to work. She added that it would “lift some spirit, as well.”

Mary Rosser echoed Sides’ remarks, adding that she’s in support of closing some downtown streets to provide the outside seating as it would “create a look and a feel downtown that we could all use right now.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is challenging Cooper in this year’s gubernatorial race, criticized Cooper’s veto, noting that “Cooper continues to drag his heels on reopening our economy, for no discernible reason.”

“Gov. Cooper needs to stop saying he’s basing all his decisions for keeping our economy shut down on ‘science and data,'” Forest said in a statement. “By vetoing the ‘Bar Bill,’ he is claiming that ‘science’ says it is safe for a brewery to be open but not a bar. Other states opened bars, gyms and other businesses weeks ago with no negative impact on public health. It’s long past time for North Carolina to do the same. We can protect lives and livelihoods at the same time.”

 

Rep. Ted Budd introduces bill that looks to help states and localities

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, R-13, joined U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican, and several other House members to introduce H.R. 7094, the Flexibility for States and Localities Act.

The bill would allow states and localities to use COVID-19 relief funds to address any financial shortfalls that arise due to the pandemic. The legislation also maintains the taxpayer protections on relief funds to prevent the money from being used for non-COVID expenditures.

In a statement, Budd said, “Local communities in NC-13 have been hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic these past several months. I was proud to support the initial relief funding, as well as this new provision that gives our states and localities the flexibility they need to meet and overcome these fiscal challenges.”

 

Rowan County ranks 26th in state for 2020 Census response

The latest 2020 U.S. Census data, updated on May 29, indicates that Rowan County ranks 26 out of 100 total counties in the state for its 2020 Census responses. Currently, the county has a 59.2% response rate.

The state’s overall self-response rate is 56.7%, which is lower than the national self-response rate of 60.4%.

County data, last updated on May 30, shows that China Grove has the highest response rate, at 60.3%, while East Spencer has the lowest response rate, at 20.3%.

Union, Orange and Wake counties rank among the top three responding counties in North Carolina, with Union at a rate of 68.4%. Swain, Graham and Avery counties rank among the bottom three respondents, with Avery at a rate of 23.3%.

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