Last week, Governor Cooper announced Executive Order 195, which lifts the modified stay-at-home order and eases certain restrictions on businesses and gatherings. The order took effect on Feb. 26 and expires on March 26. Executive Order 195 has two general categories of occupancy restrictions:
- 30 percent capacity and 50 percent capacity, both capped at 250 people
- Social gathering limits increased to 25 people for indoor events and 50 people for outdoor events
- Alcohol sales extended to 11 p.m.
- Large indoor arenas with a capacity of more than 5,000 can operate at 15 percent capacity
Not only did Governor Cooper announce Executive Order 195, he also vetoed Senate Bill 37. As previously discussed, this bill provides access to in-person learning for students in grades kindergarten through twelve. In Governor Cooper’s Objections and Veto Message, he stated the bill fell short of two critical areas. First, it allowed students in the middle and high school to go back into the classroom in violation of NC Department of Health and Human Services and CDC guidelines. Second, it hindered local and state officials from protecting students and teachers during an emergency. The Senate is expected to vote on overriding the Governor’s veto as early as Monday night (March 1.)
As discussed in previous blog posts, House Bill 82, mandates local schools to offer a six-week school extension learning recovery and enrichment program outside of the instructional calendar following the 2020-21 school year. This bill directs the State Board of Education to provide for and require units to implement innovative benchmarks to allow teachers to measure students learning loss throughout the school year. On Feb. 24, House Bill 82 passed the House and was referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
Another notable piece of legislation that made its way through the General Assembly was House Bill 107, which makes modifications to the 2020 COVID-19 relief measures for employers and claimants under the unemployment insurance system, reduces the SUTA tax rate for 2021, and includes technical changes requested by the Division of Employment Security. On Feb. 25, House Bill 107 passed the House Finance Committee and was re-referred to the House Rules Committee.
Finally, House Bill 119 provides relief from property tax liability for businesses affected by COVID-19 with a reduction of 25 percent in gross revenues, 25 percent reduction in sales tax collections, or both. The bill creates an avenue for qualifying businesses that are behind on property tax payments to enroll in a payment plan in order to settle debts. The bill passed the House on the first reading and is now with the House Rules Committee.
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