States of emergency shouldn’t be used to manage viruses.
Rhode Island Republican House Minority Leader Blake Filippi lays out the simple steps of his argument that Democrat Governor Dan McKee is acting outside of his authority by continuing the COVID state of emergency:
A thread on the lawlessness of @GovDanMcKee’s emergency powers:
§30-15-9 used to allow the Governor to declare an emergency with no end date. A state of emergency was ended by the Governor, or by the House and Senate both passing resolutions to end it.
In 2021, Republicans and many of our Democratic colleagues sought to limit the duration of emergencies.
We included language in the budget that limited emergencies to 180-days, unless both the House and Senate passed resolutions extending it.
The state of emergency declared by Governor Raimondo effectively terminated upon the passage of the budget in June, 2021 (absent several executive orders that were allowed to continue until 9/1/21).
Rather than obtain House and Senate approval to lawfully continue the state of emergency, on 8/19/21 Governor McKee declared a “new” state of emergency due to the Delta variant, ostensibly giving himself another 180 day period to legislate via executive order.
Delta is a variation of COVID-19.
Delta cannot constitute a new emergency under which the 180-day limitation may be ignored.
Otherwise, the COVID-19 emergency may be continued in perpetuity by declaring a new emergency every time it mutates, thus nullify the 180-day law.
There is extensive precedent whereby courts are reluctant involve themselves in emergencies – they leave it to the Governor and the Legislature to battle it out.
Unfortunately, the House and Senate have failed to rein in the Governor’s abuse of emergency authority.
Left without judicial or legislative remedies for this lawlessness, the People’s remedy is civil disobedience and the ballot box in November.
Of course, our civic system is so tilted, the ballot box isn’t going to be much help on this particular issue.
I’m inclined to be a little harder-edged than Filippi, here. The situation reminds me of a time I was playing Dungeons & Dragons at summer camp and the dungeon master allowed me to use my third wish on a magic sword to renew my wishes over and over. (He probably should have made that decision contingent on a roll of the 20-sided die, or something.)
Legislators should have known (and some probably did) that the new 180-day limit would have to be very well defined in order to be absolutely final. All McKee has done, essentially, is to shift from ordering the emergency continued every 30 days to ordering it renewed every 180. It’s a word game that a free people would find insulting if they were paying attention and cared about their rights.
Be that as it may, the real source of this abuse of our rights is not the ability of the governor to extend an emergency, but the clouded thinking about what emergency orders are for. They should only apply to situations when the legislature simply can’t be convened in time to address a major danger to people in the state. Managing a virus over years, months, or even weeks should not be eligible no matter how many executive orders the governor pulls out of the magic bag he received as a gift when the dungeon master took the sorceress out of the game.
Featured image by Justin Katz.