House minority leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, wears a mask at the legislature in this April 28 file photo. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) NC General Assembly
House minority leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, wears a mask at the legislature in this April 28 file photo. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

State Rep. Graig Meyer, whose daughter was diagnosed with coronavirus last month, calls out partisan jousting over reopening.

(Editor’s Note: This report has been updated to include a roll call of the veto override votes on Senate Bill 599 and and House Bill 806.)

Gyms, skating rinks and bowling alleys will remain closed after the NC General Assembly on Wednesday failed to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes of the bills trying to force them open.

The bills, passed by the Republican led House and Senate in June, were part of several attempts to take control over the pace of reopening the economy during the pandemic.

Each chamber took up a bill, the House with HB 806 reopening gyms and fitness facilities, and the Senate trying for SB 599, which reopened the skating rinks and bowling alleys. The votes were a few shy of the necessary two-thirds threshold.

The bills originally passed their chambers easily.

The override debate was short in the House, with three members, two of them Democrats, rising to speak.

Rep. Graig Meyer, an Orange County Democrat, whose 28-year-old daughter was given a COVID diagnosis last month, thanked his colleagues for their support, and warned them of the dangers he’d seen first hand. 

“I’m very pleased to say that she is now COVID negative and I was able to see her for the first time in about a month this weekend for my birthday, which was fantastic,” Meyer said. 

The Assembly applauded.

But, he said, “This is no flu.”

His daughter was recovering, but had some lung damage and the doctors were unsure how soon it would improve. “Hopefully it’s temporary,” Meyer said. “But from the doctors we’ve talked with, it’s just not clear with COVID how long the lung damage that people have lasts.”

He said that with such concerns still lingering and with the number of cases soaring, the government had to limit exposure and prioritize.

“Until we have a vaccine, we’re not going to be able to just keep everything shut down, but we’re also not going to be able to open everything up,” he said. 

“We are in a win-lose battle between the legislature and governor, between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party when it comes down to votes like this [where] there is a winner and a loser. But on COVID right now there’s no winners. There’s no winners in healthcare and there’s no winners in the economy and there’s no winners in government because we’re all struggling with how to address something like this.”

NC Rep. Graig Meyer

“We’re going to have to keep other things closed in order to limit our exposure budget.” 

He said he would focus on schools, before spending that capital on gyms.

“We are in a win-lose battle between the legislature and governor, between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party when it comes down to votes like this [where] there is a winner and a loser,” Meyer said. “But on COVID right now there’s no winners. There’s no winners in healthcare and there’s no winners in the economy and there’s no winners in government because we’re all struggling with how to address something like this.”

Rep. Darren Jackson, the House Democratic Leader, said that while the original vote was understandable, things had changed in the last two weeks.

“The decisions we make have real world consequences,” he said. “And as facts change I hope we change our opinions. I hope we are not wedded to our partisan views so much that we don’t recognize when facts have changed.”

He referenced the 20,000 additional cases in NC since the last vote on June 25, the 150 deaths, and record number of hospitalizations. 

“In the next week or two,” he said, “we are going to pass more deaths from COVID than we’ve had in the last 11 years total from the flu.”

The vote to override the veto was 63-51, 6 votes shy.

While the gyms will remain shuttered, some bowling alleys may yet reopen. 

A Wake County Superior Court judge on Tuesday ruled against Cooper in a suit brought by a bowling association.

Judge James Gale said that the state had not made it clear why the bowling alleys shut stay closed while similar businesses had been allowed to stay open.

Cooper will appeal the ruling.

Roll Call:

Senate Bill 599 Veto Override:

Ayes (all Republicans):

J. Alexander; T. Alexander; Ballard; Berger; Britt; Brown; Bryan; Burgin; Daniel; J. Davis; Edwards; Ford; Gallimore; Gunn; Harrington; Hise; Horner; B. Jackson; Johnson; Krawiec; Newton; Rabon; Sanderson; Sawyer; Steinburg; Wells
Noes (All Democrats):

Blue; Chaudhuri; Clark; D. Davis; deViere; Fitch; Foushee; Garrett; J. Jackson; Lowe; Marcus; Mohammed; Murdock; Nickel; Peterson; Robinson; Searcy; Smith; Van Duyn; Waddell; Woodard

House Bill 806 Veto Override:

Ayes (Republicans):

Adams; Arp; Baker; Barnes; Bell; Blackwell; Boles; Brisson; Brody; Bumgardner; Carter; Cleveland; Conrad; Corbin; Dixon; Dobson; Faircloth; Fraley; Goodwin; Grange; D. Hall; K. Hall; Hanig; Hardister; Hastings; Horn; Howard; Humphrey; Hurley; Iler; Jarvis; J. Johnson; B. Jones; P. Jones; Kidwell; Lewis; McElraft; McGrady; McNeely; McNeill; Moore (Speaker); Pittman; Potts; Presnell; Riddell; Ross; Saine; Sasser; Sauls; Setzer; Shepard; C. Smith; Speciale; Stevens; Strickland; Szoka; Torbett; Warren; White; Zachary

Ayes (Democrats):

Brewer; Gailliard; Wray

Noes (Democrats):

Adcock; Ager; Alston; Autry; Ball; Batch; Beasley; Belk; Brockman; Butler; Carney; Clark; Clemmons; Cunningham; Dahle; Everitt; Farmer-Butterfield; Fisher; Floyd; Garrison; Gill; Graham; Harris; Harrison; Hawkins; Holley; Hunt; Hunter; Insko; Jackson; John; Lofton; Logan; Lucas; Majeed; Martin; Meyer; Montgomery; Morey; Pierce; Queen; Quick; Reives; Richardson; Russell; K. Smith; R. Smith; Terry; B. Turner; von Haefen; Willingham