“Making laws for political purposes that encourage people to choose the health rules they want to follow is dangerous and could tie the hands of public health officials in the future,” he added.
It was not immediately clear whether the Republicans in charge of the legislation would attempt to override the veto. The Senate and House had approved the measure with narrow anti-veto margins, with the help of a handful of Democrats.
Statements on the veto from House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Education Committee Chair Deanna Ballard did not specifically mention an attempted waiver.
“Actions speak louder than words, and the governor should do more than ‘encourage’ schools to lift their mask mandates,” said Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County. “Give that decision back to the parents.”
The issue is becoming increasingly moot at the moment as the omicron variant has lost steam and Cooper has appealed to local governments to end indoor mask requirements. At least 95 of the state’s 115 school districts s have now approved a mask-optional policy, according to the North Carolina School Boards Association. Masks are still required on school buses, per federal rules.