Opening Day Wrap: Masks, uneasiness replace family fun on floor
Posted January 13, 2021 9:05 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2021 9:07 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — The 2021 legislative session opened on Wednesday, but worries over the coronavirus pandemic and unease over last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol replaced the usual pomp of the ceremonial first day.
Unlike last year, masks were widely seen on the floors of both the House and the Senate. But the leaders of both chambers said they will not make masks mandatory, saying they will try to enforce mask-wearing among members and staff through cajoling.
Vaccine distribution and doling out money from the pandemic relief package Congress approved last month will be among the first orders of business when lawmakers return in two weeks to start the session in earnest. An oversight committee grilled Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, on Tuesday about the state's slow start to the distribution effort.
After Wednesday's session, House Speaker Tim Moore also floated the idea of an intensive summer school to help students who have fallen behind during months of online classes. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger mentioned that he would like to see the General Assembly pass limits to the executive powers Gov. Roy Cooper has used extensively during the pandemic – he's shut down or limited large swaths of the economy, implemented a curfew and cut off alcohol sales, among other steps.