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.”S173-BD-NBC-9460
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, Kirk.deViere@ncleg.gov
Senator Ben Clark (Cumberland, Hoke): (919) 733-9349, Ben.Clark@ncleg.gov
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, Brian.Farkas@ncleg.gov
Representative Charles Graham (Robeson): 910-739-3969, Charles.Graham@ncleg.gov
Representative Ricky Hurtado (Alamance): 919-733-5820, Ricky.Hurtado@ncleg.gov
Representative Joe John (Wake): 919-733-5530, Joe.John@ncleg.gov
Representative Garland Pierce (Hoke, Scotland): 910-369-2844, Garland.Pierce@ncleg.gov
Representative Shelly Willingham (Edgecombe, Martin): 252-442-8659, Shelly.Willingham@ncleg.gov
Representative Michael Wray (Halifax, Northampton): 252-535-3297, Michael.Wray@ncleg.gov
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.