Senate Votes 27-15 To Limit Governor’s Emergency Powers

By Mitch Kokai
Carolina Journal

The state Senate has voted again, 27-15, to place new limits on the governor’s emergency powers. The Senate’s endorsement of the measure returns the issue to the state House.

The political parties split on House Bill 264, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no.

Under the latest version of the bill, the governor would need to consult other elected officials to enact emergency measures that last longer than a week.

“An executive order that is entered at the time of an emergency would not be beyond seven days — unless a majority of the Council of State … vote in concurrence to have that executive order extend for up to 45 days,” said Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, on the Senate floor. The Council of State is a 10-member body featuring every statewide elected executive branch official, including the lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.

Even the Council of State’s concurrence would have limits. “In those instances, those executive orders would extend for only 45 days unless the General Assembly extended that further,” Britt added.

Britt explained the need to place a time limit on the governor’s executive orders. “We’ve been in this pandemic for a long time,” he said. “We want our leader in this state to be empowered by the Emergency Management Act, as he has been … to be able to act in instances of an emergency, especially when we’re talking about natural disasters.”

The Emergency Management Act was not designed for a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic “that has extended for almost 18 months,” Britt said.

“Our country is founded — and our state is founded — on the belief that we don’t need to have just one individual making all the decisions without the collaboration of others,” he said.

Emergencies lasting longer than a month and a half will require input from “General Assembly members, who represent folks from all over, all regions, all sectors in this state so we can have more input from more people than just one individual.”

Britt reminded colleagues that a pending lawsuit addresses the issue of whether the current Emergency Management Act violates the state constitution. Critics contend the EMA delegates too much legislative authority to the governor.

“This seeks to fix that issue, while still allowing our executive to have the power he needs to make the decision he needs to make during an emergency, but also ensures that everyone’s voice is heard in collaboration going forward.”

H.B. 264 resembled Senate Bill 346, which cleared the Senate in April. “In times of emergencies, there needs to be quick action, and the General Assembly doesn’t have time to meet and change policy. That’s why decades ago the legislature delegated some power to the governor,” said Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, in a news release. “However, it’s clear that after 18 months of unilateral decision-making, that authority needs additional checks and balances.”

No Democrat spoke during the Senate’s floor debate.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed previous efforts to scale back his emergency powers. Unless some legislative Democrats are willing to join Republicans in supporting H.B. 264, the latest measure could face the same fate.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Coopers actions here will show whether or not he is 1 with the will of the people, or whether he likes to go alone as a socialist dictator puppet . !!!!! We shall see.

  2. Edward Dean Radford – I think you’re confusing “will of the people” with “vocal minority”. The will of the people overwhelmingly voted for Cooper by around 250,000 votes. You just disagree with what he’s likely to do – that is all.

  3. JD, Any majority that will accept socialism , communism, and a dictatorial leader, have been dumbed down to the point that they deserve to lose their freedoms. Just because one is with the majority doesnt make them smart. And yes i do disagree with anyone wanting the sole power to do as he wishes. without the consent of the people .With that power he doesnt need your votes or anyone elses. Thats the point when he no longer needs you or the 250,000 votes and it under mines and destroys our democracy freedoms and rights , yours and mine. No politician is happy with the power that they have been entrusted with they all ways want more because absolute power corrupts absolutely .By the way nothing confuses me, not even you , lol

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