Republicans promise bill to allow full RNC

Bill seeks to circumvent the governor, but it's likely he will veto, mooting the effort.

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Travis Fain, WRAL statehouse reporter
Laura Leslie, WRAL Capitol Bureau chief
RALEIGH, N.C. — House Republicans have delayed unveiling legislation that would let the Republican National Convention go forward in Charlotte with "capacity attendance," explicitly banning local and state officials from requiring masks or social distancing without written agreement from the RNC.

The bill attempts to circumvent Gov. Roy Cooper's administration, which has declined to promise that it will let 19,000 people gather in the Spectrum Center for President Donald Trump's nomination.

It was scheduled to be inserted in Senate Bill 105 Monday in what's known as a "gut-and-amend," which involves removing the contents of a bill that has already passed the other chamber, replacing them with new, unrelated content, and then passing the new version and sending it back to the other chamber for a single vote of approval. It's a maneuver often used to speed up the legislative process.

However, bill sponsor Rep John Torbett, R-Gaston, said Monday the language of the measure was still being worked on. It was scheduled for House Rules committee Tuesday instead, but was then removed from that agenda as well.

Once filed, it's likely that the measure will move forward on party line votes, or close to them. Cooper could then veto the bill, and he has said repeatedly that it's not prudent for so many people to gather in Charlotte given the coronavirus pandemic and high transmission risks with large, indoor crowds.

Republicans don't have the numbers they need to overturn Cooper's veto without help from Democrats.

If everything plays out as other highly partisan issues have in the North Carolina General Assembly, nothing will change when it comes to the state's mass gathering restrictions. Lawmakers will have to go on the record, though, by voting on the measure, and every seat in the General Assembly is up for election this November.

Trump has repeatedly pressed for guarantees that the convention be allowed to go forward at capacity. When that guarantee didn't come by this week's deadline, the RNC said it would look for other host cities for the president's nomination speech, though much of the convention's official business might still take place in Charlotte.

State Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, is a sponsor on the bill, which was first reported by Tim Boyum of Spectrum News. Torbett confirmed the basics to WRAL News and said the bill will be filed Monday.

State GOP Chairman Michael Whatley said on Twitter that Speaker of the House Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, would sponsor the measure as well, along with other House leadership.

"I cannot believe that Gov. Cooper has made this necessary," Whatley said.

The bill has a number of health requirements, which the RNC had already said it planned to adhere to, built in. That includes health checks as people enter the arena and "aggressive sanitizing."


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