Gov. Cooper vetoes school reopening bill; Legislature could override veto


FILE – Gov. Roy Cooper listens to a question during a briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, July 14, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Cooper will discuss the pandemic, education and his re-election bid in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Aug. 6. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has vetoed a bill aimed at forcing K-12 public schools to offer the option of in-person learning saying it “threatens public health.”

Senate Bill 37 had been sitting on Cooper’s desk since it was passed by the House on Feb. 17 by a 77-42 vote.

Cooper has said he takes issue with the bill allowing school districts to choose whether to follow the state’s minimal or moderate social distancing plans as they reopen.

“Students learn best in the classroom and I have strongly urged all schools to open safely to in-person instruction and the vast majority of local school systems have done just that.

“However, Senate Bill 37 falls short in two critical areas. First, it allows students in middle and high school to go back into the classroom in violation of NC Department of Health and Human Services and CDC health guidelines. Second, it hinders local and state officials from protecting students and teachers during an emergency,” Cooper said.

The bill would keep local school officials from moving an entire district to remote learning in the event of a surge in cases. It does allow them to move individual classrooms or schools to remote learning.

The bill passed with enough support from Democrats that the legislature could override Cooper’s veto.

Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga), who was a primary sponsor of SB 37, said there is no legitimate excuse for the veto with teacher vaccinations in full swing.

“At the same time the Governor boasts of teacher vaccinations after giving them a higher priority than cancer patients, he vetoes this school reopening bill because it offers school districts the flexibility to operate under the plan that best suits their on-the-ground needs.

“The far-left NCAE owns the Governor’s mansion. Thankfully, Senate Bill 37 passed with enough bipartisan support to override Gov. Cooper’s veto, and we expect to bring it up for an override vote,” Ballard said.

The bill would have become law on Saturday without Cooper’s signature.

Republican state Senators filed SB37 on Feb. 1.

Sens. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) and Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) were also primary sponsors.

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