By Nyamekye Daniel
(The Center Square) – Legal opposition continues to mount against Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders, which have kept some businesses closed amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Cooper’s Republican opponent in November’s gubernatorial election, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, said this week he plans to sue the governor for issuing public health orders without concurrence from a panel of state leaders.
According to Forest, Cooper’s actions violate the Emergency Management Act, which he said directs the governor to seek approval from the 10 members of the Council of State.
“The governor has repeatedly ignored the law, enacting mandates that selectively target the businesses and citizens of North Carolina without concurrence from a majority of the Council of State,” Forest said in a statement.
Cooper first ordered a halt on dine-in services March 17 in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Forest said Cooper issued the order despite overwhelming opposition from the mostly Republican panel.
“But I am sure that you will recall, a majority of the members felt that a further discussion was needed, and therefore they did not concur in your request,” Forest said in a letter to Cooper on June 25.
On March 22, Cooper issued a statewide stay-at-home order that shuttered nonessential businesses and recommended North Carolinians shelter in place to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
As the trends in the outbreak started to decrease, Cooper gradually lifted some restrictions on businesses. However, a recent spike in cases has kept some limits in place.
Cooper’s current executive order, which expires July 15, keeps closed bars, gyms, fitness facilities and playgrounds.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment June 26. However, Cooper has said the orders “protect lives and property of North Carolinians.”
Forest must get approval from Cooper to hire another attorney, as opposed to the state-appointed attorney general, before he can sue the governor.
“As the attorney general has been responsible for drafting the unlawful executive orders I’m challenging, I have decided the only path forward is with independent counsel,” Forest said.
He gave Cooper until 4 p.m. June 25 to approve his request. After multiple attempts by The Center Square to reach Forest’s office, it is unclear whether Cooper approved the lieutenant governor’s request.
Cooper also has faced legal action against COVID-19 restrictions from church leaders, gyms and owners of the Ace Speedway, a racetrack in Elon.
A federal court ruled May 16 that Cooper’s gathering limitations on places of worship were unconstitutional. The governor’s other orders have yet to be overturned.
However, a North Carolina judge June 26 did strike down a lawsuit against Cooper by a network of 185 private bars.
The group, the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association, sued Cooper because he allowed other businesses with bars, such as restaurants, to reopen but excluded private bars from his orders.
The business court judge denied the group’s request to allow them to reopen June 26.