NC Republican senators push to increase outdoor spectator capacity to 40%

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Following the governor's move to ease restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers are looking to move forward with a bill that would increase the total number of people who can attend outdoor sporting events.

Senate Bill 116 would increase viewing capacity to 40% at outdoor athletic facilities in North Carolina. That's 10% more than Cooper's order of 30% which Sen. Todd Johnson considers not enough (R-Union).

"Unless I hear a compelling reason for that difference, I plan to move forward with my bill," Johnson said.

"I think that's a step in the right direction. I don't think that's at all where we need to be especially considering that as of right now, everyone in this room can go to a restaurant and sit down in a closed space with much more of a percentage of capacity."

45,000 parents have put pen to paper signing a petition to help get this bill passed. The petition headed by Meagan O'Connell, a North Carolina mother who has two high school-aged children who play a variety of sports, demands increased capacity at sporting events including marching band.

"Parents across the state all felt the exact same way. We felt kind of lost," O'Connell said. "And all of a sudden we had this idea. And everybody was able to come together for the same common theme which is just wanting to see our kids play."

The goal of the bill is to get the governor to act now so that the bill never gets to the floor for a vote on Monday. That didn't happen to the extent the authors were hoping it would.

Two other Republican senators are sponsoring the bill including Danny Britt (R-Robeson).

"We want to have the community spirit back in our community. And that's what this bill is going to do," Britt said. " I look forward to supporting it on the floor. I would have liked to seen Governor Cooper make these changes before we have that opportunity though."

Senator Johnson said he's willing to negotiate changes but says 30% is far too low of a number.

So, for now, the bill goes to a rules committee Thursday.
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