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Cooper's Message Of Bipartisanship Seems To Fall On Deaf GOP Ears In State Of The State

Governor Roy Cooper wearing a mask and red striped tie in front of a podium.
Courtesy Gov. Roy Cooper Twitter
Governor Roy Cooper wearing a mask and red striped tie in front of a podium on March 23, 2021.

Even in a year marked by a deadly pandemic and upheaval over racial injustice, there was still a lot to celebrate, according to Governor Roy Cooper.

In his State of the State address to lawmakers gathered in the chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly's House chamber Monday night, the governor praised the essential, often low-paid workers, who toiled through the darkest days of the public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19.

"Farmers, restaurant cooks, grocery store workers kept us fed," Cooper said. "Educators, bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers helped our children get meals, stay safe and learn."

Cooper also praised people who have taken to the streets in a year that saw ReOpen NC rallies, racial justice demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd, and now, people in Elizabeth City marching for the release of body-cam footage in the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. by Pasquotank County sheriff's deputies.

"Passionate, peaceful protesters of all stripes challenged us and reminded us the importance of protecting our freedom of speech," Cooper said.

Hours before the governor's speech, Monday got off to a bright start, with Apple announcing it would invest more than a billion dollars and create 3,000 jobs at a new facility it's planning to build in Research Triangle Park. Cooper urged lawmakers to ensure the economic benefits from such high-profile projects benefit all North Carolinians.

As lawmakers work on a two-year budget, Cooper wants them to significantly raise teacher pay and to boost overall education spending with a school bond referendum. And he continues to urge the Republican-led legislature to provide health care coverage to more low-income families by expanding Medicaid.

"Let's make a deal," he exhorted. "Let's get this done."

But House Speaker Tim Moore's rebuttal suggests a deal is not in the offing.

"While the governor will push for big increases in state programs, bureaucracy and spending, we know that this is a recipe for unsustainable budgeting," Moore said in a pre-recorded response.

And while Cooper urged North Carolinians to stand together and fight against racial injustice, Moore vowed to continue supporting law enforcement.

"No proposal to weaken the thin blue line by de-funding the police will ever be passed by this legislature," he said.

Moore also promised that legislative Republicans would back policies that, in his words, "keep it easy to vote, but hard to cheat."

Voting rights advocates are currently fighting a mostly GOP-backed measure to require photo identification at the polls for North Carolina voters.

Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.
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