News: Quick Takes

Bill would allow N.C. voters to limit governor’s emergency powers

Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, foreground, and Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)
Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, foreground, and Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

Voters in North Carolina could decide next year to limit the governor’s emergency powers, under a proposed constitutional amendment filed Wednesday, April 14, in the N.C. House.

House Bill 564 is one of three measures Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, has sponsored or co-sponsored this week with ties to COVID-19 restrictions. A second bill would prohibit mandatory vaccinations. A third would block business franchisors from exceeding government mandates for personal protective equipment.

The 2022 general election would feature a statewide vote on the governor’s emergency authority, under the terms of H.B. 564. Kidwell is listed as the measure’s lead sponsor. His primary co-sponsors are Reps. Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; Mark Brody, R-Union; and Jeffrey McNeely, R-Iredell.

If approved, the amendment would expand Article III, Section 5 of the state constitution. New language would spell out rules limiting the duration of the governor’s executive orders.

“The Governor may issue executive orders, as prescribed by law, for a maximum length of 30 days from the date of issuance if the executive order declares a statewide state of emergency or directs the spending of State funds without the expressed authorization by the General Assembly,” the new constitutional language would declare. “After such time, any gubernatorial executive order shall expire, unless such executive order is approved and extended for an additional 30 days, for a maximum of 60 days, by a concurrence of a majority of the Council of State by recorded vote. The Governor may convene the General Assembly in extra session by his proclamation to extend such executive order past 60 days from the date of issuance.”

If voters approve the changes, they would take effect in January 2023.

Kidwell, Hanig, and Rep. Ben Moss, R-Richmond, have filed House Bill 572. It would block companies with franchises in North Carolina from requiring franchisees and their employees to use PPE “that exceeds” the equipment required by law during a state emergency.

Both of these bills arrived one day after House Bill 558, for which Kidwell is listed as the No. 2 sponsor behind Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus.

According to that bill’s full title, it would “make it unlawful in the state of North Carolina to mandate vaccinations against particular illnesses, including COVID-19.” The bill also would ban requirements of “proof of vaccination or proof of immunity against COVID-19 or other illnesses.” H.B. 558 would make it unlawful “to discriminate in public accommodations, employment, or otherwise on the basis of vaccination status, proof of vaccination, or proof of immunity.” Nor could anyone be forced to participate in vaccination tracking systems. A patient could not be required to “waive privacy rights in order to obtain a vaccination.”

All three bills should be assigned to House committees this week.