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Political Notebook: Local lawmakers share thoughts on face mask mandate

On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide mandate went into effect, requiring people to wear face masks when in public and at businesses until mid-July. The mandate was announced just as Cooper extended phase two due to a rise in cases across the state.

The full order lists some exceptions for wearing a mask in public, which include medical or behavioral conditions, being under 11 years of age, actively eating or drinking, strenuously exercising, temporarily removing a face covering to secure government or medical services, would be at risk from wearing a face covering at work or has found that his or her face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment.

Local lawmakers shared their thoughts on the governor’s phase two extension and the face mask mandate.

Rep. Julia Howard, R-77, said when it comes to masks, “I wear one anyway.”

“I certainly wouldn’t want to infect someone else,” she added.

She believes the governor is “doing the best he knows to do” as he’s relying on state health officials. But, she also understands “it’s a free country” and that she doesn’t see law enforcement actually giving people a citation for not wearing masks.

When it comes to the stay-at-home order, Howard said she worries most about those who are “completely shut in.” Particularly, she worries about more reports of domestic violence and child abuse.

Sen. Carl Ford, R-33, said wearing a mask should be a choice, and that both the phase two extension and mask mandate are “overreach” by the governor because the death rate is less than 1% of the state’s population.

“Any death is bad, obviously, but it’s just not there like the numbers predicted,” he said.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, said, “It’s very disappointing that he didn’t put those things into effect and move us into phase three at the same time.”

Warren also said there should be more assessments of how many COVID-19-related deaths would have occurred despite the virus or if COVID-19 was just a contributing factor. Warren said there also should be data available how many positive cases are asymptomatic. Doing so would give the state a better idea of how deadly the virus is, he said.

He added that it’s “becoming absolutely critical that we reopen this economy and get people back to as normal as possible.


U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorses U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis for re-election

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday endorsed U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis for re-election, just a week after Tillis announced his “Small Business Advisory Council.”

“Throughout my time in the Senate and as Speaker of the House, I have been dedicated to implementing pro-growth policies that enhance opportunities for the people of North Carolina, and I am proud to have the support of an organization that strives to do the same,” said Tillis in a news release. “Growing up in a trailer park and coming from nothing, I understand the hardships so many North Carolina families and businesses are facing in the wake of COVID-19. Now, more than ever, North Carolinians need a leader that will fight for their jobs and get the economy back on track, and I am committed to doing both.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also awarded Senator Tillis with their “Spirit of Enterprise Award” during Tillis’ “Small Business Advisory Council” virtual event last week. The “Spirit of Enterprise Award” gives members a score based on their pro-growth voting record and bipartisan leadership while in Congress.

“In difficult times, we are reminded of the importance of having leaders that understand the genius of the American system of government and free enterprise and who are willing to tackle the hard problems that confront our nation,” said U.S. Chamber CEO Thomas J. Donohue in a press release. “As our country faces many challenges and is collectively working to not just reopen our economy, but return to growth and expanded opportunities for all Americans, we need leaders like Sen. Tillis. Thom has a proven track record of leading responsibly and standing up for good policies.”


Lt. Gov. Dan Forest threatens lawsuit for ‘violating Emergency Management Act’

On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest notified Gov. Roy Cooper in a letter that he would sue the Cooper administration for “violating the Emergency Management Act” by not coordinating his executive decisions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic with the Council of State first.
Forest is a member of the Council of State, which also includes Cooper, the secretary of state, state auditor, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, attorney general, and commissioners of agriculture, labor and insurance.
Forest, a Republican vying for the gubernatorial position in November against Cooper, said Cooper has “repeatedly ignored the law, enacting mandates that selectively target the businesses and citizens of North Carolina without concurrence from a majority of the Council of State.”
In a news release, Forest said Cooper is required by law to approve the use of independent legal counsel. State agencies in North Carolina are required to use the Attorney General’s office to file lawsuits or else get an exception from the Governor.
“As the attorney general has been responsible for drafting the unlawful executive orders I’m challenging, I have decided the only path forward is with independent counsel,” said Forest in a press release.


Gov. Roy Cooper signs nine bills into law

On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the following bills into law:

Regarding SB 818, Cooper said, “I signed this bill because it funds step increases for teachers that have already been promised, but it falls outrageously short on raises we need to give teachers and all school personnel like bus drivers and cafeteria workers. The Legislature must make educator pay a top priority when they come back in September.”



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