Democrats must sustain Governor Cooper’s veto of anti-mask bill or we’re in deep trouble

After a week of speculation, this afternoon Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the unfortunately titled “Free the Smiles Act” (SB 173) which would have given parents the right to opt out of any local mask mandates without providing a reason or medical documentation.

In other words, no school district would ever be able to require masks.

Governor Cooper pointed out that districts are currently already moving in the direction of making masks optional (at his recommendation), adding that such a law would “tie the hands of public health officials in the future.”


We still have no idea how this pandemic will play out, and taking away local flexibility to make decisions based on their community’s health would be an extremely dangerous move.

There will now be efforts in the General Assembly to override the governor’s veto.

The bill will first head back to the Senate since that’s where it originated. If all members are present it would take 30 votes to overturn the veto in the Senate. When this bill was voted on in the Senate last week, it got 28 yes votes. Two Republicans were absent, and these two Democrats voted yes:

Senator Kirk deViere (Cumberland): (919) 733-5776,

Senator Ben Clark (Cumberland, Hoke): (919) 733-9349,

If the governor’s veto is successfully overridden in the Senate, the bill would then go back to the House, where the following seven Democrats voted to approve it before it was vetoed:

Representative Brian Farkas (Pitt): 919-733-5757,

Representative Charles Graham (Robeson): 910-739-3969,

Representative Ricky Hurtado (Alamance): 919-733-5820,

Representative Joe John (Wake): 919-733-5530,

Representative Garland Pierce (Hoke, Scotland): 910-369-2844,

Representative Shelly Willingham (Edgecombe, Martin): 252-442-8659,

Representative Michael Wray (Halifax, Northampton): 252-535-3297,

If you believe that our local health departments and school boards need to retain the authority to be able to require masks in schools when COVID rates become dangerously high, please take the time to contact the legislators above and urge them to stand with the governor and sustain the veto.

CMS student leaders overwhelmingly oppose Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education dropping mask mandate

At next Tuesday’s meeting, Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education members will consider changes to the mask mandate our schools have had in place since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

It’s a highly controversial topic which has seen school board meetings around the country turn into something resembling the Jerry Springer Show, complete with regular references to “face diapers” and ill-conceived Nazi Germany analogies.

Missing from almost all of these conversations about masks have been the voices of the individuals who are most impacted by our policy decisions: those of our students.

Generation Nation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s largest student organization, surveyed members of the CMS high school student advisory council last week, finding that 81% of them believe the CMS Board of Education should NOT lift the mask mandate at this time.

Students also indicated they were worried about the potential for bullying of students who opt to continue to wear masks in the absence of a mandate and about the increase in stress on students by lifting the mask requirement.

Tune in on Tuesday to see how our elected officials respond to those concerns.

Masks work: Latest data shows all mask-optional counties surrounding Mecklenburg have higher COVID rates

graphic by Rae LeGrone

At last week’s meeting of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, a board member called for revisiting the district’s mask mandate, saying, “Despite the indoor mask mandate, Mecklenburg County disease prevalence data is basically the same as the entire region. Most of the counties around us do not have mask mandates.

It’s a claim that deserves investigating.

According to today’s New York Times average daily cases per 100,000 data, every single county surrounding Mecklenburg with a masks-optional policy for schools has a higher COVID case rate. The only exception to that trend is Cabarrus, where just a few days ago the Board of Education voted to stop requiring masks.

Masks work.

On Wednesday, new County Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington will recommend that the Board of County Commissioners rescind the mandate requiring masks be worn in all indoor public spaces in Mecklenburg County.

There is no word whether Dr. Washington will recommend masks continue to be worn in schools.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Strong Schools NC Toolkit’s most recently updated edition (Feb 10) says “It is recommended that schools have a universal masking policy in place for everyone (age 2 and older), in areas of high or substantial transmission.”  Mecklenburg County is still experiencing high community transmission, as is every county in our state.

The CDC continues to advise that masks should be worn indoors by all students, staff, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status.

You can communicate your thoughts on the matter to Dr. Washington at

Contact your county commissioners to let them know how you think they should vote as well:,,,,,,,,

Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education to consider doubling employee retention bonuses

At its Tuesday, February 8 meeting, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education will consider a proposal by CMS Human Resources to double the employee retention incentives that were approved just prior to winter break.

Under the proposal, all full time employees would receive a total of $5000 in bonus money. Part time employees would receive $2500.

If approved, the bonuses would bring Charlotte Mecklenburg in line with incentives paid to Wake County Public Schools staff. The incentives are being funded by federal American Rescue Plan dollars.

The proposal including payout dates is included below: