Legislators Demand a Voice in Public Health Restrictions

The COVID-19 pandemic showed the dangers of letting governors unilaterally, dramatically, and indefinitely magnify their own powers.


Pennsylvania legislators last week officially ended that state's COVID-19 "disaster emergency," which Gov. Tom Wolf repeatedly extended after declaring it 15 months ago. While the immediate practical effect of the legislature's vote will be minimal, it exemplifies an important step toward reining in the vast powers that Wolf and other governors have exercised during the pandemic.

The Pennsylvania resolution was authorized by a constitutional amendment that voters approved last month, which changed the requirement for terminating a state of emergency from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority. Voters also passed an amendment that reduces the length of future emergency declarations from 90 days to 21 days and requires the legislature's approval to extend them.

The election results and last week's resolution amount to a sharp rebuke of the Democratic governor's pandemic response, which a federal judge described as "shockingly arbitrary" and unconstitutional. The goal of the new limits, according to the state Senate's Republican leaders, is "re-establishing the balance of power between three equal branches of government as guaranteed by the constitution."

Pennsylvania's governor has very broad powers once he declares a "disaster emergency." Among other things, he can suspend statutes and regulations, commandeer private property, issue evacuation orders, and "control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area, the movement of persons within the area and the occupancy of premises therein."

Wolf relied on that last power when he closed all K–12 schools and all "non-life-sustaining" businesses. He also cited it when he ordered Pennsylvanians to stay home "except as needed to access, support, or provide life sustaining business, emergency, or government services."

By last week, Wolf had lifted nearly all of his COVID-19 restrictions, and he argues that the constitutional amendments won't affect the legality of future responses to public health threats. In addition to his own emergency powers, he notes, the state Department of Health has a "duty" to "determine and employ the most efficient and practical means for the prevention and suppression of disease."

On its face, that power is even broader than Wolf's, authorizing any measure that the secretary of health considers appropriate. A bill that state legislators are considering would limit the secretary's amazingly wide discretion, saying the health department may not close businesses, issue stay-at-home orders, restrict travel, or mandate a "specific hygienic practice" such as mask wearing or physical distancing except in cases where people have been "exposed or potentially exposed to a contagious disease."

Sen. Judy Ward (R–Altoona), who introduced that provision, wants to require legislative approval of such far-reaching policy decisions, which she said "should not be made in a vacuum by someone who was not elected by the people." According to Ward, her amendment "simply prevents one person from unilaterally throwing tens of thousands of citizens out of work, barring children from school, and spending millions of taxpayer dollars."

Legislators in many other states—including, in some cases, legislators from the same political party as their governor—have similar concerns. USA Today reports that "lawmakers in 46 states, Guam and Puerto Rico have drafted 300 proposals this year to curtail their governors' executive powers." Such limits already have been enacted in several states, including New York, Florida, and Kentucky.

The impulse behind such legislation is understandable once you consider the vague, sweeping language of the statutes that were invoked during the COVID-19 crisis. After declaring an emergency, for instance, California's governor can exercise "all police power vested in the state"; Michigan's governor can "promulgate reasonable orders, rules and regulations as he or she considers necessary to protect life and property"; and Nevada's governor assumes whatever "functions, powers and duties" he thinks are "necessary to promote and secure the safety and protection of the civilian population."

Legislators gave governors the ability to unilaterally, dramatically, and indefinitely magnify their own powers, trusting them not to abuse that authority. The experience of the last year and a half suggests that trust may have been misplaced.

© Copyright 2021 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Legislators gave governors the ability to unilaterally, dramatically, and indefinitely magnify their own powers, trusting them not to abuse that authority to let them in on the deal.


    1. I truly agree with you on this one well said

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    2. Emergency powers that dear leaders refuse to give up is the primary vector to loss of freedom, historically. It was even used by George Lucas in the prequels.

      The whole argument for them in this context is there isn’t time for the legislature to act. Well, transparently we need to fix that part, when it drags on for months, then years.

      Legislators are cowards and prefer to hide while others do stuff. This is a rare opportunity to make them do their job.

    1. Oh, and get a load of this shit:

      Those affected were all ages, including children. Their most common new health problems were pain, including in nerves and muscles; breathing difficulties; high cholesterol; malaise and fatigue; and high blood pressure. Other issues included intestinal symptoms; migraines; skin problems; heart abnormalities; sleep disorders; and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

      Post-COVID health problems were common even among people who had not gotten sick from the virus at all, the study found. While nearly half of patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 experienced subsequent medical issues, so did 27% of people who had mild or moderate symptoms and 19% of people who said they were asymptomatic.

      A population that was locked down for 18 months is experiencing things like malaise, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep disorders and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Because COVID.

      1. Ugh. How can you even debate against that type of cult mentality?

      2. For those who would advocate changing our strategy, we are on the two-yard line,” Inslee said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “We are not going to change the game plan now. We are going to see this through.”

        That close in the red zone is still only 68% effective Mr. Inslee.

      3. IDK whether WA is experiencing that stuff – or is being fearmongered into believing they are experiencing that stuff – or whether the lockdown and such was ‘worth it’ or whatever. It’s your state.

        What IS true is that WA has among the lowest excess death rates (regardless of cause – real or attributed) over the last year+. 7.7% more deaths than normal in that timeframe. Only Hawaii, Maine, and Alaska are lower.

        That is hugely different from small places like North/South Dakota, DC and big places like CA, NJ, AZ – which all have 29%+ excess deaths.

        If the goal is fewer dead people, then whatever WA did is a hell of a lot better than what CA, NJ, AZ did. Of course I don’t know what that is and will certainly never find out what actually happened in various places among the commentariat here because this place is all about political signaling.

        1. Stuff your PANIC flag up your ass, stick first, you cowardly piece of lefty shit. You and those assholes like you are the reason we got into this mess

          1. The real truth is lockdowns. wearing masks and social distancing have no effect.
            It was all theater. Those governors who imposed the lockdowns are responsible for the destruction of their state’s economy.
            States like Florida, Texas and South Dakota with little or no lockdowns faired no different than the state that did and better yet, their economies did not suffer the results and the people in those states enjoyed freedom while those in the lockdown states were brutalized by wannabe little dictators like Newsom , Cuomo and Whitmer.
            The economic damage done will be long lasting as so many small businesses have shuttered permanently.

        2. What IS true is that WA has among the lowest excess death rates (regardless of cause – real or attributed) over the last year+. 7.7% more deaths than normal in that timeframe. Only Hawaii, Maine, and Alaska are lower

          A large homeless population that never social distanced or wore masks probably helped.

          Of note, according to officials, King County wasn’t doing so well, the rest of the state is Trump flyover country, whatever one makes of that.

          1. When ANTIFA and BLM finish setting fire to Seattle and looting all the stores, Inslee will have a few more things to worry about.

        3. 2.1% of donated bloodwork in WA had antibodies in mid-December 2019. Four months before we did anything at all to slow the curve. Basketball games and bars and churches and concerts and the holiday traveling season, and we didn’t even notice the virus.

          What we did that was so successful was nothing.

    2. Oh! That’s a clever trick.

      “We just need two weeks. That two weeks starts 16 months from now.”

      1. People in the U.K know how that works.
        Last week there were a million people protesting in London.

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  3. Giving any one person total power in any area will lead to repression and bad policy in the given area.
    Power corrupts, total power corrupts totally.

    1. total power corrupts totally

      It also totally rocks!

      1. Just ask the people of Michigan.
        As a resident of Antrim County, I know how that works.

    2. Power attracts corrupt people. And totally corrupt people want total power.

  4. In Missouri, our legislators just passed, and our governor signed, a new law that caps the length of any emergency declaration by local executives to 30 days, unless extended by a vote of the local representative body. Our most recent covid emergency declaration in St. Louis City / County lasted 14 months, often over the objections of the county council. (City board of aldermen, 100% democrats, not so much)

    Governor Parson said that while he typically believes in local control, these limits were necessary to prevent abuse of power by local mayors and county executives.

  5. ” it exemplifies an important step toward reining in the vast powers –”

    While that may be the case, why do I feel the legislature merely wants to participate in the power than actually reign it in

    1. IMHO,
      Reason needs to look at what is actually going on rather simply looking to promote the “sunny side” of things in its articles perhaps to promote what is taking place as a step toward freedom when that is highly unlikely.

  6. Very Beatiful Information Thanks Bro Government Jobs

  7. But the People demand only one Dear Leader, who they can worship (or despise). Quit trying to mess with their monkey tribe brains with all this “separation of powers” nonsense.

    1. Yeah! Those ‘worship tribe’ and despise ‘tribe idiots’ are totally, like, monkey tribe brained idiots. Only tribal idiots blindly group people into two tribes and then declare everyone of the other tribe bad. Both sides!

  8. Legislators Want More Power, Less Accountability

    Film at 11.

    1. In fairness, the single silver lining in this whole 18-month clusterfuck is the restriction of executive emergency powers. Anything that reins in the arbitrary power of the state has to be good.

  9. Many of us live in states and counties that ignored most of this bullshit. Oh the first month there was uncertainty about what was going to happen, but that quickly dissipated and life went mostly back to normal. Those who unfortunately live in blue states with radical leftie shits for governors had the worst time of it, and that’s what gets reported. The next elections in those states will be interesting to see if the people there understand what happened and how to correct it.

    1. The hypocrisy of those governors as they ignored their own lockdown orders and had dinners at expensive French restaurants, jet setted to Florida and generally did as they pleased all the while the rest of us were forbidden to travel anywhere and many restaurants closed permanently.
      Gov Whitmer take note: prepare to leave office after the next election.

  10. I live in Huntsville, AL. We have been NPI/restriction free for quite a while. Our governor and our mayor have done right by us. Still don’t trust them, though.

  11. How about this? There are no public health restrictions. Public health agencies can issue guidelines and advice.

    1. Businesses don’t – generally – let the accounting dept. make public
      unilateral declarations for the entire company. Those in charge take inputs from the relevant departments, coalesce those inputs into some sort of decision made by senior management (not a single dept head), and then execute. If I were the boss (in this case POTUS) Fauci would not say a word to reporters or anybody else. The org would put out briefings with folks like Fauci standing in the back ground to answer technical questions. If he made one unauthorized briefing, I’d fire him on the spot.

      1. If he made one unauthorized briefing, I’d fire him on the spot.

        Or, if feeling generous, hold a press conference with (e.g.) Rand Paul and publicly let Fauci choose between knowing his role and getting hung out to dry.

  12. The show continues at the federal level:
    My Mother is in a senior assisted living home. Two of us siblings who’d have to fly in haven’t visited in over a year because of visitor lockdowns, airlines etc. Is this a legal mandate from Labor Dept? WTF?

  13. NM state governor, the Notorious MLG, still has not rescinded her public health emergency order, in spite of the fact that nearly 70 percent of the state is vaccinated and cases have slowed to a trickle. And the Republican party there just stands around mouthbreathing helplessly.

    1. And risk forcing things back open, where opponents can blame them for a small surge in deaths?

      Not on your life.

  14. The fake pandemic that had a survival rate of over 99.9% was used as an excuse by liberal governors to act like little dictators all the while ignoring their own orders.
    But what about the vax? Just wait until it kicks in and millions die from it. The death toll is rising as well as those permanently injured to the point where vaccinations have been stopped in some countries.
    This is not a vaccine. It is an experimental gene altering toxin that is designed to kill as many people as possible. It is causing premature still born births, it is crippling people and and killing more people than all past vaccines combined.
    Those who took the shot will, sooner or later regret it as did Eric Clapton.
    The economic damage and havoc created by these despotic governors will be long lasting and the shortages(mostly contrived) we are now seeing will continue to increase. The economy itself will be ravaged by inflation as prices are rising faster everyday. No need to remind everyone about the cost of lumber, food and other goods.
    The auto industry has also taken a major hit with the chip shortage even causing used car prices to rise.
    Enjoy your freedom folks and don’t forget to take all the required shots… many as they tell you to take.

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  16. Breaking news : Donald trumps has more creativity than biden “Click Here to read” by senior management (not a single dept head), and then execute. If I were the boss (in this case POTUS) Fauci would not say a word to reporters or anybody else. The org would put out briefings with folks like Fauci standing in the back ground to answer technical questions. If he made one unauthorized briefing, I’d fire him on the spot.

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