Wednesday Wrap: Override fails, mask law suspension, school calendar debate
Posted July 8, 2020 9:11 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers left town Wednesday – mostly – after a quick two-day session where little was accomplished.
They failed to override five of Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes and then bailed on a sixth, sending the bill back to committee. The five bills were primarily linked to Cooper's actions during the pandemic, from reopening various businesses to curbing the governor's emergency powers, but the one that came closest to passing would have loosened the state's gun regulations.
They also split on the question of giving school districts the ability to start the new year with remote learning. Legislation adopted in April precludes any remote learning for the first week of school, but many districts are putting plans in place to rotate groups of students through in-person and online instruction to limit the number of people in school on a given day.
Other items left undone include a fiercely debated proposal to close loopholes allowing debt settlement firms to operate in North Carolina, a technical corrections bill and $25 million in state health grants that needed to be resurrected after Cooper vetoed the bill they were in on Monday.
Among the few issues settled was an indefinite suspension of a state law that makes it illegal to wear a mask in public. The law was initially suspended through July, but now it's legal to cover your face in public for health reasons for the foreseeable future.
Outside the Legislative Building, a state audit found more spending problems at the Department of Transportation. Auditors say DOT wrongly handed out $39 million in raises to staffers, ignoring limits on how much could be spent and a requirement that those receiving raises give up their claims on annual longevity bonuses and career-status employee rights. DOT officials say auditors misinterpreted the law allowing the raises.
Finally, Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, was lauded by colleagues after they approved her nomination to a state commission that hears appeals on unemployment claims.