After the onset of COVID-19, most states enforced some combination of lockdowns and mask mandates — all of which were driven by governors’ emergency powers.
Some chief executives — such as Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who said that “we will never do any of these lockdowns again” — reversed their executive orders in the summer of 2020. Many Republican governors — such as Greg Abbott (R-TX) and Asa Hutchinson (R-AK) — have dropped their state’s mask mandates in the past several weeks.
Then there are some state lawmakers who are refusing to wait for their governors to end mask mandates and lockdowns. Here are five state legislatures who have had enough of their governors’ abuse of emergency powers.
North Carolina’s State House passed the Emergency Powers Accountability Act — a bill which would limit the emergency powers of Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) and other members of the executive branch — on March 31.
According to the legislation, the governor will need consensus among the ten senior executive positions in order to declare or extend a state of emergency. This amendment also applies to the state government’s ability to enforce quarantines and isolations.
House Majority Leader John Bell explained that the bill “is not about politics — it is about clarifying the law to restore accountability and ensure stronger bipartisan input.”
He added that “the governor was never intended to have such absolute authority, especially for an unlimited time.”
The bill — which passed with a 69-50 vote that fell along partisan lines — will advance to the State Senate for further deliberation.
In Pennsylvania, lawmakers are moving to restrict the executive powers of Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) — one of the five governors who sent senior citizens infected with COVID-19 back into their nursing homes at the beginning of the pandemic.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, Wolf issued a 90-day state of emergency on March 6, 2020, which allowed him to shutter schools and other “non-life-sustaining” businesses. Since that time, the governor has extended the order four times.
Pennsylvania’s legislature will ask citizens to vote on a measure that would amend the state’s constitution by increasing “the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration.” Pennsylvanians will have an opportunity to cast their ballots on May 18.
In New York, lawmakers are working to strip Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) — who issued a similar nursing home order as Wolf — of his emergency powers.
“A year into the pandemic, and as New Yorkers receive the vaccine, the temporary emergency powers have served their purpose — it is time for them to be repealed,” explained Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-NY). “These temporary emergency powers were granted as New York was devastated by a virus we knew nothing about. Now it is time for our government to return to regular order.”
In addition to a federal investigation over his concealing of nursing home deaths, Cuomo is facing several allegations of sexual misconduct.
The vote was supported by both chambers of the Democrat-controlled legislature, many of whom also called for Cuomo to step down as governor of the Empire State.
Lawmakers in Michigan approved a bill to limit the extent of public health emergency orders issued without approval of the state legislature to 28 days. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), however, vetoed the legislation.
“Unfortunately, epidemics are not limited to 28 days,” Whitmer stated in a letter. “We should not so limit our ability to respond to them.”
Whitmer — a third Democratic governor who forced seniors back into care facilities — has faced abundant criticism for her handling of the pandemic. In one instance, Whitmer and her family visited their vacation home despite her executive order discouraging intrastate travel.
In response, Whitmer told reporters that she was “not going to get into the business of refuting and discussing every aspect of my whereabouts or dispelling every inaccurate statement or post.”
On Memorial Day weekend, her husband also floated Whitmer’s status as governor in order to launch his boat — a statement which Whitmer later insisted was a “failed attempt at humor.”
Lawmakers in Wisconsin worked earlier this month to remove emergency powers from Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI).
“Over the past year, we have witnessed a constant struggle between individual liberty and government powers, as emergency powers were used at a rate not seen in decades in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” wrote the bill authors in a statement, as reported by Wisconsin State Journal. “While governments do need emergency powers in certain, rare situations, they should be severely limited in duration and scope.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, however, beat the legislative branch to the punch. On March 31, the court ruled that Evers is not able to repeatedly extend his emergency measures.
“A governor will surely have little difficulty drafting a new emergency order stating that the challenges or risks are a little different now than they were last month or last week,” said the court’s majority opinion. “So long as the emergency conditions remain, the governor would possess indefinite emergency power under this atextual theory.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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