Legislators still trying to get gyms and fitness centers open with second bill

May 29, 2020 — Craig Cadogan and Danny Richani, HotWorx Fitness studio franchisees. Photo: A.P. Dillon, North State Journal

RALEIGH — A second bill attempting to open gyms and fitness centers was passed by the General Assembly and has been sent to Gov. Roy Cooper, this one with what GOP leaders believe is a significant concession.

House Bill 806, titled Open Exercise & Fitness Facilities, passed both chambers and was presented to the governor late last week.

North Carolina is one of only four states in the country which has not yet reopened gyms on some level.

A group of health and fitness club owners in the state, called “Fitness Operators for Responsible Reopening,” were said to be involved in helping draft the bill.

Unlike the first attempt, the new bill leaves out requiring the governor to obtain a concurrence from the Council of State to close gyms or related fitness centers should the need arise. This change was something that Democrats in both chambers gave as a reason for opposing previous reopening bills.

“I would like to support a bill that had outdoor seating for restaurants … and to help our bars and our gyms, but where the governor whom we elected is in charge,” said Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) on the Senate floor on June 9. Nickel also said that, “If you had a safety switch, which is Gov. Cooper, this is a bill I could support.”

“I’m sick of Democrats hiding behind technical disagreements about the separation of powers,” said Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance) in a statement. “Thousands of people’s livelihoods hinge on whether they can reopen their businesses, and that consideration is more important that squabbles about power.”

“These new bills strip the governor and the Democrats of the objection they’ve lodged to the reopening bills. Enough is enough — let’s get these businesses open,” said Gunn.

Under the new bill, health clubs and gyms would be allowed to operate at 40% capacity, whereas other businesses that have been allowed to reopen are at 50% capacity. The bill would also require club owners to perform daily temperature checks of employees, who would also have to wear masks or face coverings of some type.

In addition, House Bill 806 says the clubs have to provide contactless check-in ability, frequent cleaning of areas and equipment with high traffic or use, and disinfectant spray and hand sanitizers for the customers and employees throughout the facility.

The first attempt by the legislature to open gyms back up was House Bill 594, which Cooper vetoed. In his veto statement, he claimed that, “Tying the hands of public health officials in times of pandemic is dangerous, especially when case counts and hospitalizations are rising.” Cooper also said in his veto that House Bill 594 “could restrict leaders who need to respond quickly to outbreaks and protect public health and safety.”

About A.P. Dillon 279 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_