RALEIGH – Well, does he, or doesn’t he? That is the question after Governor Roy Cooper’s executive orders to force North Carolina businesses to close their doors.
Cooper, along with many other city and state executives around the country, is leveraging emergency powers as much as possible to limit the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina. Despite the State of Emergency declaration, however, Cooper’s unilateral decree ordering restaurants and bars to close their doors to patrons may have crossed a line.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest announced his concern was based exclusively on the way in which the decision was made, pointing out how detrimental such a draconian move is to our local economies, and how the Council of State did not concur with the governor’s proposal to force these businesses closed. Cooper ordered it anyway, and his mouthpieces are aghast that Forest, who is running against Cooper in the 2020 election for governor, would dare question his authority.
— Sadie Weiner (@sadieweiner) March 17, 2020
Who created the chaotic situation in the middle of the pandemic? The elected leader that cautioned against executive overreach during a crisis, or the one that unilaterally ordered small-business owners to close their doors for weeks? We digress…
Cooper says he has the authority under the emergency powers law. While there are all sorts of alarming powers the governor and state can exercise during a declared state of emergency, certain powers are only available to the governor provided the Council of State concur. This is exactly what Forest was raising concern over, because the majority of the Council of State DID NOT AGREE to closing restaurants for myriad reasons.
The law spells out that any violator of an executive order under the emergency powers law will be guilty of a Class 2 Misdemeanor. Reports from Raleigh restaurant owners confirmed that local police began ‘checking in’ with restaurants shortly after the 5:00 PM Tuesday deadline to make sure they were in complying.
So far we’ve not heard of any charges filed for willful violations of this order, but if there are; does the fact that the order was given in direct contravention to the letter of the law mean anything? The governor did not get concurrence for that part of the order; is it therefore invalid?
We’ll see. Luckily most people are doing all they can to help their communities get through this pandemic scare as safely as possible. Each one of us should exercise the flipside of individual rights — individual responsibility — because it’s in everyone’s interest, but that doesn’t mean we should look the other way when elected officials overstep in ways that will be hurting so many citizens for so long.