State briefs: NC Republicans seek to rein in governor’s emergency powers

Published 11:20 pm Wednesday, March 10, 2021

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina House Republicans on Wednesday launched another attempt to rein in the governor’s powers during state emergencies, citing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s wide-ranging actions to restrict commerce, schools and mass gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

On the one-year anniversary of Cooper’s first executive order involving COVID-19, several legislators filed a bill  that would require the governor to get support from a majority of the Council of State for a statewide emergency declaration lasting longer than 30 days. The 10-member Council is composed of the governor, lieutenant governor and other statewide elected officials. Republicans currently hold six of the Council seats.

Cooper has issued dozens of orders related to the coronavirus since March 2020, some of which kept restaurants, bars and schools closed for months and still mandate mask wearing in public. The orders led to protests and many lawsuits, most of which Cooper won after defending his actions in the name of public health.

“The current law that granted these emergency powers was simply not written with today’s challenges,” said House Majority Leader John Bell, a Wayne County Republican and bill co-sponsor. “There needs to be more bipartisan input and checks and balances. Simply put, no one person should have the unilateral authority to shut down schools, businesses and entire livelihoods, especially for over a year.”

Lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to overturn portions of Cooper’s orders with their own legislation. Last July, he vetoed a  bill  similar to the one filed Wednesday. That proposed legislation was more restrictive, limiting a governor’s emergency declaration to just 48 hours unless it received the “concurrence” of the Council of State. Wednesday’s bill allows declarations without the council’s formal backing to expire in seven days.

While state law already requires a governor to run some orders past the Council of State, Cooper’s attorneys have said he can act unilaterally when local governments can’t respond effectively. A Superior Court judge agreed with Cooper in a lawsuit filed last year against him by then-Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican.

Contaminated feeders could be killing some birds

CHARLOTTE (AP) — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says that a “concerning number” of goldfinches and pine siskins may have died after being infected with salmonella from bird feeders.

The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday that state officials warned that salmonella is often fatal in songbirds that frequent bird feeders.

The group Carolina Waterfowl Rescue added that the disease is typically transmitted “through food or water contaminated with feces.”

The state is urging residents with bird feeders to clean them using a bleach solution that is “no more than 1-part bleach to 9-parts water.” The feeders should also have time to dry before feed is put in them.

But if residents suspect salmonella, they should take the bird feeder down for two to three weeks.

“Even after intensive cleaning, re-contamination commonly occurs where birds are being fed because the disease is shed by feces and some birds are carriers,” the Wildlife Resources Commission said.

Flights halted at North Carolina airport after drone sighted

GREENSBORO (AP) — A drone disrupted flights from a North Carolina airport, prompting an investigation from the Federal Aviation Administration and local law enforcement on where it came from and who owned it.

According to the FAA, the drone was seen flying over and around Piedmont Triad International Airport between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Tuesday, news sources reported. Air traffic controllers remained in constant communication with local officials as they searched for the drone operator, the FAA said.

Controllers switched runways and periodically suspended flights while the drone was in the area. Flights were also held on the ground and one flight headed to Greensboro was diverted to another airport.

The drone was seen at multiple locations over airport property, according to the FBI.

Multiple law enforcement agencies and fire department officials worked without success to locate the drone’s operator.