A coalition of North Carolina bowling alleys gained a legal victory Tuesday in its pursuit of reopening in North Carolina.
Judge James Gale of Wake Superior Court ruled in favor of N.C. Bowling Proprietors Association Inc., granting a preliminary injunction of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order that has kept bowling alleys closed since mid-March.
The ruling applies only to bowling alleys that members of the association. A list of members wasn’t immediately available Tuesday evening.
Gale wrote that bowling alleys could reopen “as long as other indoor businesses sharing common risk factors for the potential spread of COVID-19 are allowed to remain open.” He said bowling alley operators must implement steps to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Cooper is appealing the ruling. saying “hospitalizations and positive cases are reaching record highs while the governor works to get schools open and prevent the state from going backward on restrictions.”
Cooper said the ruling “harms both of these efforts.”
On Thursday, the governor vetoed Senate Bill 599, which would partially reopen bowling alleys and skating rinks. The bill passed the Senate by a 32-15 vote and the House by a 68-52 vote.
At full attendance, a successful veto override must have at least 30 votes in the Senate and 72 in the House.
Under Phase Two of Cooper’s three-part plan to reopen the state, which began May 22, he chose to keep several businesses closed that had been projected to reopen with similar 50% capacity limits that restaurants and personal-care services must observe.
Those businesses include bars, nightclubs, public playgrounds, gyms and fitness centers, movie theaters, bowling alleys, bingo parlors, and museums.
Cooper has extended the Phase Two restrictions, in what he called a pause, until at least July 17.
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a statement the bowing alley court ruling “reflects the difficult reality that the governor has chosen winners and losers in North Carolina’s economy without any justification or consistency, devastating some family businesses while helping others.”
Override vote could come today
SB599 is one of six vetoed bills — four in the House and two in the Senate — that may be subject to an override vote today.
The House and Senate are set to begin their sessions at 11 a.m., although the Senate may postpone votes until 1:30 p.m.
Moore told legislators Tuesday it is “his intent to resolve everything” as quickly as possible. He cautioned there is the potential for “things could come off the tracks” during the next session.
Senate Bill 105 is perhaps the most contentious of the eight vetoed bills. It would require the governor to gain approval from at least six Council of State members to create or extend an executive order.
The council is comprised of six Republicans and four Democrats. All six GOP members have said they want to fully reopen the state’s businesses sooner than Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health secretary, have planned.
Several Democratic legislators have called the Council of State concurrence requirement “a poison pill.”
Cooper said in addressing his veto of SB105 that “placing additional bureaucratic and administrative obligations on the declaration of a state of emergency is a substantial change in the law.”
Two vetoed bills passed the legislature with enough votes to override if Democrats vote the same way.
The votes on House Bill 652 (concealed weapons on church campus that also operates a school) were House 77-38 and Senate 33-14.
The votes on House Bill 806 (reopen fitness centers and gyms) were House 75-31 and Senate 33-13. Some Democrat support for HB806 came from Republicans agreeing to remove Council approval language from the bill.
The rest of the bills, including SB105, cleared the legislature with enough House Democratic support to sustain Cooper’s veto.
An expected contentious Council of State meeting Tuesday ended after an hour with limited conflict.
The meeting focused on State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s effort to convince Cooper to end executive orders Nos. 124 and 142. The orders prohibit utility shut-offs, late fees and re-connection charges for customers affected by COVID-19, whether from contracting the virus or impact on their job.
Folwell said many small communities that operate their own utilities, particular in eastern N.C., are struggling to meet financial obligations, in part because of customers’ overdue payment balances.
Cooper declined to take that step, saying the executive orders are scheduled to end July 30, and he has no current plans to extend the orders. He said customers still owe their monthly payments, and the utilities should take the next three weeks to arrange monthly repayment plans with customers, or a default six-month repayment schedule would commence.
Both Folwell and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson sought to ask Cooper about Council of State-related legislation in bills the governor has vetoed. Cooper ended the meeting without taking additional questions.