by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper declared in-person dining is banned in North Carolina for the foreseeable future. This decision is surrounded by controversy, part of which centers on whether or not the declaration has legal standing.
In a recent Carolina Journal piece, reporter Kari Travis writes that the governor cannot make these decisions unilaterally; members of the Council of State (COS) are required to concur with these decisions before they can go into effect. However, the majority of members on the Council of State did not concur with Cooper’s order. CJ’s Kari Travis writes:
Cooper violated a general statute by failing to get the concurrence of the COS, [Dan] Forest said. A majority of the members voted against the part of the order closing dining areas in restaurants and private clubs, CJ learned Tuesday. A record of the votes hasn’t been made public.
By law, the governor has every right to close bars and restaurants in an emergency, but only with the concurrence of the COS, said Jon Guze, director of legal studies at the John Locke Foundation.
“After the press release, and shortly before a scheduled press conference, I, along with other Council of State members, was asked to concur with the Governor’s decision with no discussion,” Forest wrote in the release. “The Governor held his press conference and made the announcement even after a majority of the Council of State voted not to concur with the Governor. Thus, he does not have the authority to issue this part of his executive order.”
The haste of this decision and the lack of consultation could have unforeseen consequences. Travis writes:
COS members who voted against closing restaurants weren’t disregarding public health needs, he said. They were concerned about food supply chains and about the employees who would be jobless in the face of Cooper’s announcement.
“Here you are affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers across North Carolina,” [Dale] Folwell said, “and the secretary of labor has not been consulted here. You are possibly disrupting the food chain of North Carolina, and the secretary of agriculture had not been consulted.”