Some people thought it would be one of the first bills introduced in the current session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
And maybe the first to be vetoed.
But the Emergency Powers Accountability Act (HR264) was introduced in the state House this week with House Majority Leader Rep. John Bell, Rep. Keith Kidwell and Rep. Tim Moffitt as primary sponsors.
The purpose of the bill is to strengthen and clarify the current emergency powers act, which requires approval from the majority of the Council of State before the governor can take certain emergency actions. Gov. Roy Cooper originally sought the approval of the Council of State, which is made up of 10 state officials elected statewide. But when Cooper did not receive the approval of the majority, he found a legal loophole that has allowed Cooper to rule the state unilaterally for the past year.
It is no surprise that the North Carolina General Assembly does not approve of giving the governor so much power.
In the press release Bell said, “This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. 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.”
Kidwell said, “Unfortunately, the Governor has chosen to disregard the statutory requirement that mandates him to consult with the Council of State. 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.”
The main adjustment that the Emergency Powers Accountability Act would make is to require the governor to obtain approval of the Council of State when issuing a statewide declaration of emergency longer than 30 days. In effect, it would close the loophole that has allowed Cooper to issue executive order after executive order without the concurrence or approval of anyone.
In March 2020, when Cooper sought the concurrence of the Council of State, he did not receive approval from the majority in large part because the members of the Council of State were not provided with the actual executive order and had asked for more information. Rather than provide that information Cooper found a loophole that has allowed him to act unilaterally.
The Council of State is made up of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, auditor, secretary of state, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of labor and commissioner of insurance.