Governors apparently enjoy ruling without legislative oversight because they seem reluctant to give up emergency powers granted to fight COVID-19.
States usually issue emergency orders to resolve temporary threats, such as weather disasters, and are ended after just days or weeks.
Widespread hospitalization and death from the novel coronavirus escalated around March 2020. Governors of many states either issued broad executive orders or were given expanded power to act unilaterally to combat the pandemic. Governors used their new power to ban crowds, close businesses and mandate masks and vaccination. They often pointed to advice provided by unelected public health officials to justify their sweeping restrictions.
Only 16 states passed legislation to reform state emergency processes out of the 46 introduced in 2021, according to the think tank Maine Policy. Maine Policy said substantive changes were made by Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah.
Nevada’s state of emergency has been declared in perpetuity, despite lawmakers’ unsuccessful attempts to pass measures limiting the authority of Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak.
Governor Laura Kelly (D-Kan.) extended her emergency authority to January 2023, clinging to her expanded power. The state’s director of public health has questioned the need for a continued state of emergency.
Governor Roy Cooper (D-N.C.) vetoed November legislation to require wider input from elected leaders to continue his ability to issue restrictions under a declared emergency. Gov. Cooper last week extended the emergency order scheduled to expire in April.
Twelve states have emergency orders still in place, according to a report in The Epoch Times. Democrats control both the executive and legislative branches in seven of the 12 states. The remaining states have reportedly either ended their emergency or announced an end date.
Emergency power struggles have also occurred at local levels, as some cities and counties also declared emergencies in early 2020. The powers were invoked to enact local restrictions often in clashes with state leadership they opposed politically.
Texas is an example of municipalities clashing with their state leaders. Leaders of cities and urban counties mainly ignored Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 policies. They claimed local states of emergency enable them to mandate masks, vaccination and other measures regardless of edicts from Austin. Gov. Abbott obviously disagrees, saying the authority to issue emergency orders lies with the chief executive of the state and his orders take precedence over any local orders.
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