Assemblymembers seek to end governor’s emergency powers

Under Section 8629 of the California Emergency Services Act, the legislature has authority to terminate the governor’s emergency powers and assemblymembers Kevin Kiley and James Gallagher are introducing an Assembly Concurrent Resolution to exercise this statutory prerogative.

A “State of Emergency” in California is a legal term describing not merely conditions of extreme peril, but also the inadequacy of state and local institutions to combat the threat within the constraints of the state Constitution.

“This resolution is meant to restore a proper balance between the legislative and executive branches,” said Kiley. “To the extent the governor retains extraordinary powers, they should be limited in scope in coordination with the legislature, which has authority to terminate those powers altogether.”

According to a statement from the assemblymembers, since proclaiming a State of Emergency on March 4, California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued 39 executive orders, unilaterally changing 200 laws spanning most sections of the California code. This includes creating new voting laws for an election six months away and overhauling Workers’ Compensation rules.

“We must take action to restore representative, constitutional government,” Gallagher said. “The governor has clearly overstepped his authority, from arbitrarily changing state laws, to using state agencies to threaten small business outside of their legal jurisdiction, to spending money outside the scope of legislative authorization. It is incumbent upon the legislature to restore the balance of powers.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, in a report Sunday on the governor’s May Revision, was “very troubled” by the authority the governor seeks to take away from the legislature. The report concludes: “we urge the legislature to jealously guard its constitutional role and authority.”

“The Emergency Services Act was designed to grant extraordinary powers to a governor under conditions of extreme peril,” Kiley said. “It was not meant to give a single person the ability to remake all of California law indefinitely. An open-ended state of emergency, with boundless powers vested in a chief executive, is incompatible with democratic government.”