(The Center Square) – North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said Monday he plans to move forward with his lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper, challenging the governor's executive orders that keep COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Forest, who is Cooper's Republican opponent in November's gubernatorial election, said he is going to ask the court to rescind Cooper's orders until the governor receives the concurrence of the majority of the Council of State.
It is a requirement under state law Cooper has skipped, Forest said.
"This lawsuit is not interested in the substance of Gov. Cooper's orders," Forest said during a news conference Monday. "It specifically addresses his lack of authority under the Emergency Management Act to shut down North Carolina without the concurrence of the Council of State."
The governor and lieutenant governor are two of the 10 state officials who make up the Council of State. The board also includes the secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer, state auditor, commissioner of labor, commissioner of agriculture, insurance commissioner and superintendent of public instruction.
Cooper's office did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment. House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, pushed back against Forest and other Republican state leaders Monday on Twitter.
"Ever since [Cooper] took action to issue a Safer at Home order, Republican leaders have been defiant," Jackson tweeted. "They saw the polls, and they made a choice. A purely political choice. Not one based on health or safety."
Cooper first ordered a halt on dine-in services at restaurants March 17 in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Forest said Cooper issued the order despite overwhelming opposition from the mostly Republican panel and continued to issue orders without consulting with the members.
On March 22, Cooper issued a statewide stay-at-home order that shuttered nonessential businesses and recommended North Carolinians shelter in place to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
As the trends in the outbreak started to decrease, Cooper gradually lifted some restrictions on businesses. However, a recent spike in cases has kept some limits in place.
Cooper's current executive order, which expires July 17, keeps closed bars, gyms, fitness facilities and playgrounds.
"When the governor is delegated power, it is not absolute," Forest said. "There exists a system of checks and balances, which are necessary to ensure that we respect the freedom and the will of the people."
The General Assembly also passed four bills that call for the reversal of some of Cooper's COVID-19 restrictions. Cooper has vetoed two bills that would have reopened bars and gyms. The House attempted but failed to override the governor's veto of one of the bills.