NC lawmakers vote for more spectators at high school and college games, graduations

T. Keung Hui
·2 min read

High schools and colleges would be allowed to fill up their stands to half capacity during the coronavirus pandemic under a bill approved Wednesday by the state House.

The state Senate has passed its own bill expanding capacity at school events. And both Republican-controlled chambers are pushing ahead with separate legislation that could bypass the Democratic governor.

The House voted 77-42 to allow up to 50% capacity at indoor and outdoor sporting events and graduations at UNC System schools, community colleges and K-12 schools. House Bill 128 would require schools to allow at least 30% capacity.

The bill comes after Gov. Roy Cooper recently eased COVID-19 restrictions to allow up to 15% capacity at indoor venues and 30% capacity at outdoor venues. But Rep. Kyle Hall, a Stokes County Republican, said Cooper’s limits are “still unnecessarily low and over restrictive.”

“This is an an issue of major concern for countless families and communities across North Carolina,” said Hall, a primary sponsor of the bill. “Unfortunately these arbitrary limits. are not based in science and only punish our athletes and their families.

“For this reason, I ask for your support for this common-sense bill to ensure families have the opportunity to safely attend and support their loves ones and their teams.”

The House also passed a bill Wednesday allowing high schools in 14 counties to have up to 50% capacity at outdoor sporting events. It’s not a statewide bill so it could be approved without going to Cooper.

Rep. Brandon Lofton, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, argued it was unconstitutional because local bills can’t deal with health issues But House Speaker Tim Moore disagreed and allowed the bill to be voted on.

Both bills will now go the Senate.

On Monday, the Senate passed a statewide bill that would allow high schools to have up to 40% capacity at outdoor events. The Senate also backed a bill covering the same 14 counties included in the legislation approved by the House.