N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, says the governor’s long-running COVID state of emergency is now the “status quo.”
“For 730 days,” Berger said in a statement Thursday, March 10, “Gov. Roy Cooper has kept North Carolina in a state of emergency, even as COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines have disappeared.”
Emergency declarations are typically reserved for disasters, such as severe weather or floods, and only for a short time. The Emergency Management Act authorizes a single person to take swift action to change policies when the 170-member General Assembly can’t convene quickly, Berger said.
Cooper, though, enacted the emergency some two years ago and has left it intact, ostensibly to make it easier for health agencies to secure federal and state money from emergency pools.
On Monday, all 69 N.C. House Republican caucus members signed a letter calling on Cooper to rescind the order and “allow the state to move forward.”
After 24 months, Berger says, an immediate need to respond to the pandemic no longer exists.
Overall, COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 28 states and are active in 22 states, according to the latest data from Ballotpedia:
- Of the 14 states with a Democratic trifecta, 10 have active COVID-19 emergency orders. In four states, COVID-19 emergency orders have expired.
- Seven of the 23 states with a Republican trifecta have active COVID-19 emergency orders. In 14 states, COVID-19 emergency orders have expired.
- Five of the 13 states with a divided government have active COVID-19 emergency orders. In eight states, COVID-19 emergency orders have expired.
A political party has a “trifecta” when it controls each policymaking branch of government.
“North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics, including new case counts, have dwindled in recent weeks to levels we haven’t seen in months,” Berger’s news release says.
The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests was at 3% as of Thursday. Hospitalizations have dwindled to 1,102, according to the state health department.
Science and data, Cooper had said, would guide the state’s response. It hasn’t, GOP lawmakers say.
“Two weeks to flatten the curve has turned into two years of Governor Cooper twisting state law and executive authority to suit his whims,” Berger said. “It’s time for Governor Cooper to acknowledge what everyone else has: This is no longer an emergency.”
This week, Berger says, Cooper’s office claimed the reason the state of emergency continues is that he wants to work with the legislature to “pass laws that serve the same purpose.”
“The General Assembly has been in session since January 2021 and could have worked with Governor Cooper to address his concerns,” Berger says. “Yet, we have not heard from him on specific measures relating to his emergency declaration.”
Republican lawmakers have tried to rein in the governor’s powers through legislation and finally did so with a provision in Senate Bill 105, the state budget bill, which Cooper signed. Those reforms, however, don’t kick in until Jan. 1 of next year.
Earlier legislation, including House Bill 264, Emergency Powers Accountability Act, would have required the governor to receive concurrence from the 10-member elected Council of State for an emergency declaration of more than seven days, and legislative approval for an emergency to extend beyond 45 days. Cooper vetoed the bill in November.