As the Governor relaxes long-term restrictions on the coronavirus, state legislators across the United States are taking steps to significantly limit the power they can exercise in future emergencies.
Legislative measures are not intended to simply revoke mask obligations and capacity restrictions that were common during a pandemic. Many proposals aim to radically shift power from governor to legislator the next time a virus outbreak, terrorist attack, or natural disaster occurs.
Pam Greenberg, a policy researcher at the National Assembly of Parliament, said:
According to the NCSL, lawmakers in 45 states have proposed more than 300 measures this year in connection with legislative oversight of administrative measures in the COVID-19 pandemic or other emergencies.
According to the U.S. Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative association of lawmakers and businesses, about half of these states are considering significant changes, such as tightening restrictions on how long a governor’s emergency order can last without legislative approval. doing. It wrote a model “Emergency Power Limitation Act” that lawmakers should follow.
The backlash comes primarily from Republicans, but it’s not entirely partisan.
Republican lawmakers have sought to limit the powers of Democratic governors in states such as Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina. However, they have also sought to curb fellow Republican governors in states such as Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, and Ohio. Some Democrats also oppose their governor, especially limiting the embarrassed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ability to issue new orders.
When a pandemic broke out a year ago, many governors and their Supreme Health authorities temporarily ordered residents to stay home, restricted meetings, banned face-to-face school education, restaurants and gyms. , Closed other businesses. Many governors have lifted or relaxed restrictions after the peak of winter, after the number of cases decreased, and as more people were vaccinated.
However, if a new variant of the coronavirus leads to another surge in the case, it remains possible in many states that the governor will tighten restrictions again.
The governor has acted under the authority of an emergency response law that has not been developed with an indefinite health crisis in mind, dating back decades in some states.
“The legislature before the 1960s, fearing the nuclear Holocaust, was given tremendous power,” said Jason Monks, a Republican and assistant leader of the House of Representatives, Idaho Legislature.
“This was the first time I thought these laws were really stress tested,” he said.
Like many governors, Idaho Governor Brad Little has repeatedly extended a month of emergency orders since it was first issued last spring. A pair of bills approaching final approval would prohibit him from declaring a state of emergency for more than 60 days without legislative approval. The Republican governor also bans constitutional rights from being suspended, people’s work capacity being restricted, or state law being changed by suspending face-to-face voting last year and holding postal-only primaries. Will be.
The recent passage of a Republican-led house in New Hampshire also prohibits Governor Governor Chris Snune from renewing his emergency declaration indefinitely, as he did every 21 days of the past year. Unless updated by lawmakers, it will suspend emergency orders after 30 days.
Next month, Pennsylvania voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to limit disaster emergency declarations to three weeks instead of three months, and will need legislative approval to extend them. Republican-led parliament took steps to vote after failing to repeatedly overturn the policy implemented by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in an attempt to contain the pandemic.
In Indiana, Republican-led state legislatures and Governor GOP are involved in a power struggle for executive branch.
Parliament last week approved a bill that would give lawmakers greater power to intervene in emergencies declared by the Governor by convening during a special session. House Republican leaders said the bill wasn’t an “anti-governor,” but a response to an intergenerational crisis.
Governor Eric Holcomb, who issued more than 60 executive orders during the pandemic, rejected the bill on Friday. He argues that the legislature’s attempts to expand its power could violate the State Constitution. Legislative leaders said it could revoke the veto and create a legal clash between the legislature and the administration. Unlike Congress and most states, Indiana lawmakers can revoke a veto with a simple majority of both homes.
Several other governors have also rejected bills that limit emergency powers or strengthen legislative powers.
In Michigan, where new variants are spurring an increase in COVID-19 cases, Republican-backed legislation will end the State Health Department’s order 28 days later, unless Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer was extended by lawmakers last month. I exercised my veto right.
Republican Governor of Ohio Mike DeWine argued that a law allowing lawmakers to revoke his public health orders “endangers the security of all Ohio.” However, the Republican-led parliament overturned his veto the next day.
“It’s time to stand up for the legislature,” co-sponsor Senator Rob McCollie told a colleague.
A Republican-led parliament in Kentucky overturned the veto of a bill limiting the emergency powers of Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, but judges temporarily blocked the law from coming into force. Judges said they “are likely to undermine or cripple the effectiveness of public health measures.”
In some states, the governor worked with lawmakers to reduce administrative power.
Republican Governor of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson last month signed a law giving the GOP-led parliament a greater say in deciding whether to end his emergency order. It was immediately tested by the Arkansas Legislative Council and decided to extend Hutchinson’s emergency declaration for another two months.
Democratic Kansas Governor Laura Kelly also passed a law last month empowering legislative leaders to revoke her urgent orders. Top Republican lawmakers immediately used it to revoke Kelly’s orders aimed at encouraging the county to maintain Mask’s obligations.
“Regarding the emergency management law, the power of the administration has been castrated,” said Democrat John Carmichael. “It may have very disastrous consequences in other situations and in other disasters.”
Mr Kelly said it would be difficult to persuade people to continue wearing masks without state or local obligations. She said her orders eased pressure on local leaders and businesses.
“Make me a bad guy. Be the one who commands me not to make such a decision,” Kelly said.
Republican lawmakers argued that their promotion to curb the governor’s power was not partisan. Lawmakers understand how broad the governor’s power is until she closed schools from kindergarten to high school last spring, restricted indoor worship services, and began issuing orders to regulate how businesses could resume operations. He said he wasn’t.
Speaker of the House Pro Tem Blaine Finch said she believes that the amendments to Kansas’s Emergency Management Act will allow future governors to “use their power sparingly” and work with lawmakers. It was.
“Our system is set up so that no one of the parties is overpowered in Kansas’ life,” he said. “We are supposed to check and balance.”
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