Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Written by Andrew Dunn
More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic brought North Carolina to a screeching halt, Gov. Roy Cooper shows no sign of relinquishing the sweeping and open-ended emergency powers he has claimed under state law.
The General Assembly is now trying once again to clarify exactly what a governor should have the power to do on his own during a state of emergency — and how long “emergencies” should be able
A new bill that would rewrite the state’s Emergency Management Act advanced through a House Judiciary committee this week. It now sits in the House Rules Committee.
North Carolina’s current law allows the governor to declare a state of emergency at any time, and it does not end until the governor declares it over. During such a period, the governor has broad powers to regulate gatherings, close schools, shutter businesses, or mandate evacuations.
The law appears to require Council of State concurrence for some of these powers, but when Cooper was challenged last summer over several of his executive orders, a judge ruled that North Carolina’s governor can make these decisions unilaterally
Under House Bill 264, a state of emergency would end within seven days unless the Council of State authorizes it to last longer. The Council of State would then need to vote to continue the state of emergency every 30 days.
The governor would also need Council of State approval to exercise most of the powers to prohibit and restrict activity and business.
“A year ago, when the shutdown order was entered, most people in our state didn’t believe that the governor had the ability to shut our entire state down. Most people assumed there were at least some form of checks and balances on that sort of measure,” said Destin Hall, R-Caldwell, when the bill was first introduced.
“Our state is going to face other emergencies in the future. We’ve got to build public trust in an emergency situation. The way we do that, try to take the politics out of it, is through a deliberative process. This bill would give us that deliberative process.”
The Council of State is made up of the independently elected statewide officials under the state constitution, including the lieutenant governor, state auditor, state treasurer, and secretary of state. Notably, the bill does not include new legislative oversight.
Other states have taken up similar bills as the coronavirus has shone a light on the shortcomings of most state emergency laws, which historically have been used primarily during hurricanes or other natural disasters.
New York’s state legislature, for example, passed a law this month requiring more oversight of its governor’s emergency powers.
In North Carolina, Cooper would need to sign this new emergency powers bill for it to go into effect. This is unlikely. Over the past year, Cooper has vetoed any effort to rein in his control.
Instead, he has preferred to go it alone — something General Assembly leaders have noted.
“The current law that granted these emergency powers was simply not written for today’s challenges,” Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, said when the bill was first introduced. “There needs to be more bipartisan input and checks and balances. There is no unilateral rule in a constitutional republic.”
Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Written by Jeff Thompson
Cumberland County Schools will transition to Plan A beginning Monday, April 12. The Cumberland County Board of Education approved the changeover during a recent special meeting. Under Plan A, all students will be eligible to attend class in person on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week. Wellness Wednesday will be an independent remote learning day for all students so school buildings can be cleaned.
School-based virtual learning options remain open to students. Plan A does not require schools to reduce the usual number of students in the classroom. Social distancing is not required on school buses. CCS will continue the process of temperature screening students and others who enter school buildings.
Social distancing protocols will be in effect inside schools and visitor limitations remain in effect. Students, faculty members and staff must wear masks or face coverings in school and on school buses.
All families had the opportunity of deciding if their children would transition to Plan A or switch to full-time virtual learning. Families of students who are currently participating in full-time virtual learning which did not complete preference forms prior to the deadline, will remain remote through May 2021. Students enrolled in virtual academies are not eligible to transfer to other schools in the district at this time and will remain at the virtual academies through May.
School pupils began returning to class earlier this month. They were divided into two groups. Some attended school on Monday and Tuesday. Others returned to classrooms on Thursday and Friday. Schools Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr., acknowledged the time and effort that has been spent making students' return a “safe and healthy one.” Dedicated employees “have worked around the clock to prepare for a hybrid teaching and learning model,” he said. “And we cannot forget the work of our staff members who are making sure we’re prepared to operate safely, effectively and efficiently."
Students, for their part, likely have lost months of learning as they return to classrooms. Most kids yearn for social connection with their peers and teachers, and the pandemic has caused many of them to fall behind. Some lack internet access at home and have resorted to finding nearby school buses outfitted with high-speed Wi-Fi. Cumberland County schools have discontinued the process because buses are on the road again. Lacking access to in-person schooling can also put some children at risk of going without meals or spending increased time with abusive relatives.
Remote learning has exacerbated the institutional harms that were already being inflicted on many families.
Virtual schooling could have a silver lining though: some children may end up being more resilient on the other side of the pandemic. Navigating uncertainty, maintaining hope for the future, and relying on community resources to overcome challenges are skills some youngsters could be developing.
For many students, learning from home can also be healthier than in-person schooling. Deepening their bond with parents, for instance, sets foundations for trust and empathy.