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Cooper vetoes latest attempt to curtail his emergency powers

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an 11th-hour veto Monday evening to block legislation that would limit the governor's emergency powers.

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By
Matthew Burns
, WRAL.com senior producer/politics editor
RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper issued an 11th-hour veto Monday evening to block legislation that would limit the governor's emergency powers.

Cooper had until midnight to sign or veto House Bill 264, or it would have become law without his signature.

The bill would have required any emergency action lasting longer than a week to have the support of a majority of the 10-member Council of State, which is currently dominated by Republicans. State lawmakers would then have to sign off on extending any state of emergency past 45 days.

GOP lawmakers and critics of Cooper's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have long chafed at his statewide emergency orders.

The legislation is similar to a bill that passed in the summer of 2020 that also was vetoed by Cooper, as were lawmakers' other, less expansive attempts to limit gubernatorial emergency powers.

"Critical decisions about stopping deadly diseases, or responding to any other emergency, should stay with experts in public health and safety, not a committee of partisan politicians," Cooper said in his veto message. "We must be able to act quickly and thoroughly when deadly diseases, hurricanes or any other dangers threaten people’s lives and jobs. An emergency needs decisive, quick and comprehensive action, not bureaucracy and politics.”

Republican lawmakers quickly shot back that the governor shouldn't have unilateral authority to decide what businesses can be open and who should wear masks.

"There is no emergency – none – that lasts for nearly two years. At that point, it’s no longer an emergency – it’s the new status quo," Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, said in a statement. "Yet, for 19 months, the governor has held onto every iota of unilateral authority he has. It’s unhealthy, unsafe and undemocratic."

"[T]he governor is putting power and politics over our constitution and what is good for our state," Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, the primary sponsor of House Bill 264, said in a statement. "The governor’s veto undermines our constitution, the balance of powers and the rule of law. It also further shows the dangers of when power is centralized in the hands of one person."

The bill is the 65th one Cooper has vetoed since he took office in January 2017. Lawmakers have overridden 23 of them, but none since the end of 2018.

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