GYM OWNERS TO FILE LAWSUIT SO THEY CAN REOPEN: Local gym owners plan to file a lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday. Many gym owners say being kept closed is unconstitutional and harmful, not helpful. Robin Gardner-Smith and Ed Smith, who own about a dozen Fit4Life health clubs across the state, are among the plaintiffs in the pending lawsuit. They maintain that the state's restrictions are unconstitutional, violating their right to earn a living. Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said they’re trying to prevent a spike in the number of cases, but gym owners say it's not fair to pick and choose which businesses can open. Regardless of the outcome of the gym lawsuit, Smith and his wife said they plan to reopen Fit4Life next Monday. Other gym owners have already reopened, based on videos and statements posted on social media.
BILL FILED TO ALLOW RESTAURANTS TO SEAT PEOPLE OUTSIDE: Under the proposed legislation, restaurants could seat customers on covered patios, public sidewalks and public streets, if permitted under local ordinances. All must be on the same parcel, contiguous to or in “close proximity” to the establishment. Scott Maitland, who owns Top of the Hill restaurant, brewery and distillery in Chapel Hill, testified in favor of the bill during a committee hearing Wednesday. “If a restaurant is limited to only 50% capacity, it’s just a prescription for flat-out losing money,” Maitland said. “This opportunity to expand the restaurant’s capacity... It’s a fantastic idea.” Though bars have not been green-lighted to reopen under Cooper’s orders, they would be able to do so if the bill is passed and signed into law. In mid-March, Cooper shuttered restaurants and bars in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
BOND REFERENDUM TO REPLACE LOST REVENUE MAY BE ON NOVEMBER BALLOT: Borrowing money to pay for North Carolina university and school buildings, roads and other projects is getting attention again at the General Assembly after a pay-as-you-go construction expansion plan crumbled last year beneath a veto. Republican House Speaker Tim Moore and other representatives filed a measure this week that would put a $1.9 billion debt referendum on this November's ballot. Moore said recently it makes sense to borrow when interest rates are low, construction jobs are needed and tax revenues have dropped due to the COVID-19 economic downturn. The full House sought a similar package last year, but Senate Republicans wanting to build using conventional tax revenues won out in legislative budget negotiations. Then Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the GOP's budget in part because he favored a referendum, although his proposed debt approached $4 billion. House and Senate Democrats filed bills this month seeking referendums for bonds of at least $3 billion.
BIDEN CALLS TRUMP A "FOOL" FOR COMMENTS ABOUT MASK-WEARING: Trump denied that he had been criticizing Biden’s decision to wear a face covering for a public Memorial Day wreath laying even though he retweeted a Fox News commentator mocking Biden’s look of a black mask and dark aviator sunglasses mostly obscuring his face. “Joe Biden can wear a mask, but he was standing outside with his wife, perfect conditions, perfect weather ... And so I thought it was very unusual that he had one on,” Trump said during a press conference in the Rose Garden. “But I thought that was fine. I wasn’t criticizing at all. Why would I ever do a thing like that?” A moment later, the president told a reporter to remove his face mask while asking a question. The reporter offered to speak louder instead. “Oh ok, you want to be politically correct,” Trump said. In contrast to Biden’s full face covering, the president was barefaced at the Memorial Day remembrances he attended. Biden accused him of “stoking deaths” and said setting an example by wearing a mask “projects leadership.” “He’s a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way,” Biden said in a CNN interview. “Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine.” By evening, Biden had changed his social media profile pictures to himself in his mask. The president’s refusal to wear a face mask in public, defying recommendations from public health experts, has become a symbol for his supporters resisting stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus crisis. To wear one then is seen by some as being anti-Trump.
TWITTER MOVES TO FACT-CHECK TRUMP'S TWEETS VIA EMBEDDED LINKS: The changes immediately set off accusations by Mr. Trump, who has more than 80 million followers on Twitter, and his 2020 re-election campaign that the company was biased against him. In a tweet, Mr. Trump said the company was “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and added, in another post, that it was “completely stifling FREE SPEECH.” Brad Parscale, a manager of the Trump 2020 campaign, said, “We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters.” A Twitter spokesman said Mr. Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context.” Disinformation experts said Twitter’s move indicated how social media platforms that had once declared themselves neutral were increasingly having to abandon that stance. Twitter faces singular pressure because it is Mr. Trump’s most frequently used method of communicating with the public. Early in his presidency, he tweeted about nine times a day. He has since accelerated his pace, averaging 29 tweets a day this year and posting up to 108 times on May 10, according to a tally by The New York Times. The company faced heavy criticism, along with Facebook, for allowing Russian disinformation to run rampant on the platform during the 2016 presidential election.