NC Legislative Update: April 3, 2020
The North Carolina General Assembly is scheduled to return for the Short Legislative Session on April 28. Several interim committees have met, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many committee meetings have been canceled. The House has been holding committee hearings remotely on COVID-19.
Given that the Legislature will be in session later this month, a special session is unlikely. However, the Executive Branch has issued numerous orders to deal with COVID-19, and those orders are summarized below.
COVID-19: NC Executive Orders
Executive Order No. 116: Declaration of State of Emergency - March 10, 2020
- Section 1: Designates the entire State as the “Emergency Area” in response to the public health emergency posed by COVID-19.
- Section 2: Orders all state and local government entities to cooperate in the implementation on the disaster declaration and the Emergency Operations Plan (the “Plan”).
- Section 3: Delegates power to Department of Public Safety (DPS) Secretary Erik Hooks to deploy the State Emergency Response Team, and requires that Secretary Hooks coordinates implementation of the Plan with Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, and State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson.
- Section 4: Specifies that DPS Secretary Erik Hooks shall exercise all the powers of the Secretary of Public Safety.
- Section 5: Waives the maximum hours of service for vehicles transporting medical supplies or other equipment needed to respond to the threat of COVID-19.
- Section 6: Waives the height and weight restrictions for vehicles transporting medical supplies or other equipment needed to respond to the threat of COVID-19. Also suspends the weighing of vehicles carrying those supplies.
- Section 7: Lists circumstances of when vehicle height and weight restrictions will not be waived.
- Section 8: Waives various vehicle registration requirements for vehicles falling under the scope of this Executive Order.
- Section 9: Triggers the State’s prohibition on excessive pricing and encourages the Attorney General to monitor unfair and deceptive trade practices and the State’s price gouging law.
- Section 10: Establishes the Governor’s Novel Coronavirus Task Force (“Task Force”), which will be chaired by Mike Sprayberry, the Director of Emergency Management, and the State Health Director.
- Section 11: Authorizes the hiring of temporary employees at DHHS to respond to the virus. Also authorizes the State Health Director to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and make recommendations on travel restrictions for state employees who are traveling for state business.
- Section 12: Orders the State Health Director to work with local health departments to implement public health surveillance and control measures in response to COVID-19.
- Section 13: Orders the State Health Director to work with the State Laboratory of Public to maximize the availability of COVID-19 testing. Also encourages private labs and universities to expand testing capacity.
- Section 14: Grants a right of entry to public places to various public health officials for the purposes of investigating COVID-19 cases, and various actions to help prevent the spread of the virus.
- Section 15: Waives restrictions related to the type of product or chemical concentration of products use to clean facilities for COVID-19.
- Section 16: Waives licensure requirements for health care and behavioral health care personnel who are licensed in another state. Also states that the administrative code shall not be interpreted to prevent health care providers from issuing standing orders to qualified agents or employees to conduct COVID-19 tests on individuals suspected of having the virus.
- Section 17: Directs DPS Secretary Erik Hooks to seek assistance from the federal government to address the emergency and seek reimbursement of costs.
- Section 18: Directs the DHHS Secretary to waive formula requirements and adjust aid-to-county funding for affected counties.
- Section 19: Authorizes access to the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund to help cover costs necessary to respond to this State of Emergency.
- Section 20: Allows DHHS, DPS, and local governments to bypass purchasing laws when acquiring supplies needed to address the emergency. Also orders state government to expedite the leasing of real property needed to respond COVID-19.
- Section 21: Directs DHHS and the Department of Insurance to work with health insurance providers offering insurance in the State to identify burdens for testing for COVID-19, telehealth screening, and access to prescription drugs, in order to reduce patient cost-sharing to zero for all medically necessary COVID-19 testing.
- Section 22: Suspends regulations related to modifying the Medicaid Clinical Coverage Policy, and directs DHHS to create coverage policies for Medicaid beneficiaries to receive testing and treatment for COVID-19.
- Section 23: States that this Executive Order does not restrict or prohibit lawfully processed firearms or ammunitions, and does not limit the consumption, transportation, or sale of alcoholic beverages.
- Section 24: Directs this Executive order to be distributed to news outlets, filed with the DPS Secretary, Secretary of State, and Clerks of Superior Court, and the Order be distributed to others as necessary.
- Section 25: The order became effective immediately and remains in effect until rescinded.
Executive Order No. 117: Prohibit Mass Gatherings and Closure of K-12 Public Schools - March 14, 2020
- Section 1: Prohibits mass gatherings of more than 100 people in a single room or space. Does not apply to certain transportation facilities, medical facilities, restaurants, or retail establishments.
- Section 2: Mandates that public schools are to close from March 16, 2020 to March 30, 2020. Also directs DHHS, DPI, and the State Board of Education to work together to meet the health, educational, and nutritional needs of students.
- Section 3: Urges citizens to practice social distancing of six feet and good handwashing practices.
- Section 4: Directs this Executive order to be distributed to news outlets, filed with the DPS Secretary, Secretary of State, and Clerks of Superior Court, and the Order be distributed to others as necessary.
- Section 5: The order became effective immediately and remains in effect for 30 days or until rescinded.
Executive Order No. 118: Limiting Operation of Restaurants and Bars, and Broadening Unemployment Benefits - March 17, 2020
- Section 1: Directs Restaurants and Bars to operate on a carry-out or drive-through only policy. The order does not apply to grocery stores or facilities that sell alcohol for of premise consumption only. Section 1 also revises the “mass gathering” definition from Executive Order 117 to remove restaurants and bars from the exemption.
- Section 2: Directs the Department of Commerce to ensure that individuals who, as a result of COVID-19, are separated from work, have their hours reduced, or are medically unable to work, be eligible for the maximum unemployment benefits allowed by federal law.
- Section 3: Waives the certain eligibility requirements necessary to qualify for unemployment benefits, including the following: waiting period, able to work, work search, actively seeking, and lack of work. Directs the Department of Commerce not to allocate charges to employers’, and directs the Department to postpone all mandatory in-person contacts with individuals seeking unemployment benefits.
- Section 4: States that enforcement of this order will be conducted by state and local law enforcement officers, and that a violation is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
- Section 5: Section 1 became effective as of 5:00 pm, March 17, 2020 through March 31, 2020, and the remainder of the order became effective immediately, until rescinded or suspended.
Executive Order No. 119: Delegating Authority to DHHS Secretary and Motor Vehicle Changes - March 20, 2020
- Section 1: Delegates authority to the DHHS Secretary so they may waive child care and subsidized child care rules, and extend the time for nurses to complete training.
- Section 2: Encourages local governments to support the continued operation of child care facilities for priority groups who are assisting in the COVID-19 response.
- Section 3: Directs the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner to limit services to appointment only, close offices where social distancing is not feasible, extend hours at offices that remain open, delay DMV hearings, and suspend driving tests until safe to conduct.
- Section 4: Waives vehicle registration requirements for vehicles transporting necessary items to assist in the COVID-19 response.
- Section 5: Extends the maximum hours of service waiver included in Executive Order 116 for drivers transporting necessary items for the COVID-19 response.
- Section 5: Extends the height and weight restriction waiver included in Executive Order 116 for vehicles transporting necessary items for the COVID-19 response.
- Section 6: Directs this Executive order to be distributed to news outlets, filed with the DPS Secretary, Secretary of State, and Clerks of Superior Court, and the Order be distributed to others as necessary.
- Section 7: The order became effective immediately and remains in effect for 30 days or until rescinded.
Executive Order No. 120: Additional Restrictions on Mass Gatherings and Long Term Care Facilities, and School Closure Extension - March 23, 2020
- Section 1: Modifies the definition of “Mass Gatherings” included in Executive Order 117 to restrict such gatherings to 50 people or less. The section also requires entertainment businesses to close on March 25, but they can keep retail or dining components of their business open, as long as they comply with previous executive orders. Personal care shops and salons are also ordered to close in Section 1.
- Section 2: Requires local governments to keep essential services operational, but they should do so while taking precautions to protect their employees with social distancing, personal protective equipment, and reasonable accommodations.
- Section 3: Restricts visitors to long term care facilitates to only essential health care personnel. Exceptions for certain compassionate care situations can be made.
- Section 4: Extends the school closure mandate from Executive Order 117 to May 15, 2020.
- Section 5: The order became effective on March 25, 2020 and remains in effect for 30 days unless rescinded or superseded by another executive order. Section 4 is effective until May 15, 2020.
Executive Order No. 121: Stay at Home Order - March 27, 2020
- Section 1: Orders all individuals to stay at home, except for travel to Essential Activities, Essential Government Operations,ortoparticipateinoraccessCOVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations.
- Essential activities include those regarding health and safety, necessary supplies and services, outdoor activity, certain types of work allowable under Section 2, taking care of others or pets, places of worship, receive goods or services from a COVID-19 Essential Business, traveling to a place of residence, or volunteering at a charity.
- Section 2: Directs all businesses to close,exceptforCOVID-19 Essential Businesses.COVID-19 Essential Businesses are encouraged to allow employees to work from home when possible, and implement policies to protect employees.COVID-19 Essential Businesses include the following:
- Businesses that can follow social distancing between and among employees and customers
- Businesses in critical infrastructure services (CISA)
- Health care and public health operations, human services operations
- Essential Infrastructure Operations
- Essential Government Operations
- Stores that sell groceries and medicine
- Food, beverage production, and agriculture
- Organizations that provide charitable and social services
- Religious entities
- Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
- Financial and insurance institutions
- Home improvement, hardware and supply stores
- Critical trades
- Mail, post, shipping, delivery, and pick-up services
- Educational institutions
- Laundry services
- Restaurants for consumption off-premises
- Suppliers to work from home
- Suppliers for COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations
- Home-based care and services
- Residential services and shelters
- Professional services
- Manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries
- Defense and military contractors
- Hotels and motels
- Funeral services
- Additional COVID-19 Essential Retail Businesses
- Section 3: Redefines the term “Mass Gathering” from Executive Orders 117 and 120 to mean a gathering of more than 10 individuals within the same room or space.
- Funerals are allowed no more than 50 individuals, while still observing social distancing.
- Section 4: States that local governments can enact stricter ordnances that this Executive Order, but those restrictions shall not prohibit COVID-19 Essential Government Operations.
- Section 5: States that if any portion of this Executive Order is held invalid, then it does not invalidate the other portions of the Order.
- Section 6: States that this Executive Order shall be enforced by state and local law enforcement officers, that violation of this order is punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor, and that nothing in this Order preempts a court order.
- Section 7: States that this Order became effective on March 30, 2020, and remains in effect for 30 days, unless repealed, replaced, or rescinded by another executive order.
Executive Order No. 122: Donation of State Surplus Property - March 30, 2020
- Section 1: Authorizes the transferor donation of surplus State property to any state agency, local government, or public school in the State.
- Section 2: Allows the DHHS Secretary to approve donations of personal protection equipment or other health care supplies through the State Health Care Coalition.
- Section 3: Allows any state agency, local government, or public school to contact the State Surplus Property Office to inquire about what inventory is available.
- Section 4: The Order became effective immediately and is in effect until repealed, replaced, or rescinded by another executive order.
Executive Order No. 123: Extend Early Childhood Advisory Council - March 27, 2020
- *Not concerning COVID-19*
Executive Order No. 124: Utility Shut-offs and Guidance for Other Providers - March 31, 2020
- Section 1: Defines “Utility Service Providers” as any provider of electric, natural gas, water, or wastewater services, regardless of their ownership structure. The Section dictates that Utility Service Providers cannot terminate the service of a residential customer for non-payment. Utility Service Providers cannot charge any fee, penalty, or interest for late payments after this order for 180 days, and, then shall make reasonable efforts to work with customers on a six month repayment plan. Section 1 also encourages Utility Service Providers to reconnect service to residential customers who have been disconnected for non-payment. DHHS and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are directed to publicize payment assistance programs for customers, and Utility Service Providers shall inform their customers of the provisions contained in this Section. This section will remain in effect for 60 days.
- Section 2: Urges providers of telecommunications, cable, and internet services to follow the measures specified in Section 1, and asks these providers to expand data caps. The Section requests that the Attorney General to convene these service providers to identify measures that can be taken to ensure that necessary services continue.
- Section 3: Concurs with the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court to suspend eviction proceedings until April 17, 2020. The Governor and Attorney General also encourage landlords to work with tenants on payment plans and flexibility, and for lenders to do the same with property owners.
- Section 4: Urges all banks and other lending institutions to increase withdrawal limits, waive fees, and relax other policies for customers who can demonstrate hardship from COVID-19. These service providers should also take steps to inform customers of assistance programs and the heightened risk of scams and price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic. These service providers are also asked to cease reporting late payments to credit rating reporting agencies during the disaster.
- Section 5: States that if any portion of this Executive Order is held invalid, then it does not invalidate the other portions of the Order.
- Section 6: Directs this Executive Order to be distributed to news outlets, filed with the DPS Secretary, Secretary of State, and Clerks of Superior Court, and the Order be distributed to others as necessary.
- Section 7: The Executive Order became effective immediately and remains in effect for 60 days, unless it is rescinded or replaced with another executive order.
Executive Order No. 125: Authorizing Remote Shareholder Meetings – April 1, 2020
- Section 1: Authorizes North Carolina corporations to hold shareholder meetings by remote means during the state of emergency. The corporation’s board of directors shall have discretion in choosing to hold remote meetings, but must give shareholders the opportunity to participate as required by the North Carolina Business Corporation Act. This section also specifies that this Executive Order shall not be interpreted to imply that a remote shareholder meeting would not have met the requirements of the North Carolina Business Corporation Act absent an executive order.
- Section 2: States that if any portion of this Executive Order is held invalid, then it does not invalidate the other portions of the Order.
- Section 3: The Order became effective immediately and remains in effect for 60 days, unless rescinded or replaced by another executive order.
Notable Agency Directive: NC DOR Tax Filing Date – March 23, 2020
- DOR has issued a directive that the Agency will waive penalties for State income and franchise tax returns due on April 15, 2020, and not filed before July 15, 2020.
- The waiver will apply to individuals, corporations, partnerships, trusts, and estates.
- The Department does not have the authority to move the due date or suspend interest payments.
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