Amid pandemic, states act to restrict governors


A grocery store displays a sign requiring customers to wear masks in Austin, Texas on March 10, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit a year ago, many US governors invoked emergency powers to impose restrictions on residents, ranging from temporarily ordering them to remain home to mandatory wearing of masks and the shutting down of restaurant indoor dining, gyms and other businesses.

Lawmakers in 45 states have proposed more than 300 measures this year related to legislative oversight of executive actions during the pandemic or other emergencies, said the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some of the proposals are going further to fundamentally shift power from governors to lawmakers even if there is another virus outbreak, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

"The COVID pandemic has been an impetus for a re-examination of balancing of legislative power with executive powers," Pam Greenberg, a policy researcher at the NCSL, told The Associated Press.

The moves are primarily by Republican lawmakers, but not entirely partisan. Laws limiting a governor's emergency powers have been enacted in five states where one party controls the governorship and both branches of the state legislature: Arkansas (Republican), Colorado (Democratic), New York (Democratic), Ohio (Republican) and Utah (Republican).

On May 18 in Pennsylvania, voters will decide on a pair of constitutional amendments to limit disaster emergency declarations to three weeks, rather than three months, and require legislative approval to extend them.

The Republican-led Legislature placed the measures on the ballot after repeatedly failing to reverse the policies Democratic Governor Tom Wolf implemented to try to contain the pandemic.

Several governors also have vetoed bills limiting their emergency authority or increasing legislative powers.

In Michigan, where new variants are fueling a rise in COVID-19 cases, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed GOP-backed legislation last month that would have ended state health department orders after 28 days unless lengthened by lawmakers.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, contended that legislation allowing lawmakers to rescind his public health orders "jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan". But the Republican-led Legislature overrode his veto the next day.

Kentucky's GOP-led Legislature overrode Democratic Governor Andy Beshear's vetoes of bills limiting his emergency powers, but a judge temporarily blocked the laws from taking effect. The judge said they are "likely to undermine, or even cripple, the effectiveness of public health measures".

In New Hampshire, the state's Republican-led House would prohibit governors from indefinitely renewing emergency declarations, as Republican Governor Chris Sununu has done every 21 days for the past year. It would halt emergency orders after 30 days unless renewed by lawmakers.

In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed a law giving the GOP-led Legislature greater say in determining whether to end his emergency orders. It was quickly put to the test by the Arkansas Legislative Council, which decided to let Hutchinson extend his emergency declaration another two months.

In North Dakota, the House of Representatives pushed forward a bill that sought to ban mask mandates issued by state-elected officials or the state's top health officer.

Republican Governor Doug Burgum vetoed the bill, saying that it removes "a tool from the emergency tool kit that may be needed to help our state save lives and nimbly navigate future pandemics and their unknowable challenges".

A day later, North Dakota House lawmakers overrode the governor's veto, sending the bill to the state Senate, where it has been introduced.

一年前新冠肺炎大流行爆发时,许多美国州长援引紧急权力对居民实施限制,从临时命令他们留在家中,到强制佩戴口罩,以及关闭餐厅室内餐厅、健身房和其他企业。

州立法机构全国会议表示,45个州的立法者今年提出了300多项措施,涉及对大流行或其他紧急情况下行政行动的立法监督。

一些提议进一步从根本上将权力从州长转移到立法者手中,即使有另一场病毒爆发、恐怖袭击或自然灾害。

NCSL大学的政策研究员帕姆·格林伯格告诉美联社,“冠状病毒大流行推动了对立法权和行政权平衡的重新审视。”。

这些举措主要是由共和党议员提出的,但不完全是党派性的。限制州长紧急权力的法律已经在五个州颁布,其中一个政党控制着州长职位和州立法机构的两个分支:阿肯色州(共和党)、科罗拉多州(民主党)、纽约州(民主党)、俄亥俄州(共和党)和犹他州(共和党)。

5月18日,宾夕法尼亚州的选民将决定两项宪法修正案,将灾难紧急声明的期限从三个月延长到三周,并要求立法机构批准延长。

共和党领导的立法机构在多次未能扭转民主党州长汤姆·沃尔夫为遏制疫情而实施的政策后,将这些措施付诸表决。

几位州长还否决了限制他们紧急权力或增加立法权的法案。

在密歇根州,新的变体正在推动新冠肺炎病例的增加,民主党州长格雷琴·惠特默上个月否决了共和党支持的立法,该立法将在28天后结束州卫生部的命令,除非立法者延长。

俄亥俄州州长迈克·德温(Mike DeWine)是一名共和党人,他认为允许立法者撤销他的公共卫生命令的立法“危及每个俄亥俄州人的安全”。但是第二天,共和党领导的立法机构否决了他的否决。

肯塔基州共和党领导的立法机构否决了民主党州长安迪·贝希尔对限制其紧急权力的法案的否决,但一名法官暂时阻止了这些法律的生效。法官表示,这些措施“可能会削弱甚至削弱公共卫生措施的有效性”。

在新罕布什尔州,共和党领导的众议院将禁止州长无限期延长紧急状态声明,正如共和党州长克里斯·苏努努在过去一年中每21天所做的那样。它将在30天后停止紧急命令,除非立法者延长。

在阿肯色州,共和党州长阿萨·哈钦森(Asa Hutchinson)签署了一项法律,赋予共和党领导的立法机构在决定是否结束他的紧急命令方面更大的发言权。阿肯色州立法委员会很快对其进行了测试,决定让哈钦森将其紧急声明再延长两个月。

在北达科他州,众议院推动了一项法案,该法案试图禁止由州民选官员或该州最高卫生官员发布的口罩授权。

共和党州长道格·伯根(Doug Burgum)否决了该法案,称其删除了“应急工具包中可能需要的一个工具,以帮助我们的州拯救生命,并灵活应对未来的流行病及其不可知的挑战”。

一天后,北达寇塔·豪斯的立法者否决了州长的否决,将该法案提交给州参议院,并在那里进行了介绍。


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