Stateline

More States Rein in Governors' Emergency Powers

More States Rein in Governors' Emergency Powers
A table marked with a tape "X" that will remain unused, is next to Sara Kennely as she cleans one of the dining tables at Max's Allegheny Tavern, Thursday, June 4, 2020.
Sara Kennely cleans a dining table at Max's Allegheny Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania voters opted last month to limit Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency powers.
Keith Srakocic The Associated Press

State lawmakers proposed a flood of bills this year that would limit governors’ power to declare and respond to an emergency, with more than 300 bills filed across 47 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NSCL), an organization that advises state legislators. 

Such laws have been enacted in 12 states, according to NCSL. Some of the new laws give legislators more control over the duration of an official emergency declaration. Others give them oversight of federal emergency aid spending or allow them to call the legislature into session in an emergency. 

Governors have wielded extraordinary powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. All 50 governors last spring declared a state of emergency because of the virus. Under those declarations, they could shut down businesses, order residents to stay home, require mask-wearing and limit gatherings. 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear
Stateline Story

This Time, Lawmakers Want Control Over COVID-19 Aid

Quick View
Stateline Story

This Time, Lawmakers Want Control Over COVID-19 Aid

The states and Washington, D.C., are set to receive $195 billion in federal money.

 

Lawmakers say they want to make sure they have more control over the response to future long-running crises. But opponents, including many governors, say efforts to limit executive authority will make it harder for states to quickly respond to emergencies. 

The debate over emergency powers has been particularly acrimonious in states that have a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, such as Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania voters last month approved constitutional amendments that limit emergency declarations to 21 days, allow lawmakers to extend or terminate the declarations and empower legislators to pass laws to manage a disaster. The GOP-controlled legislature placed both measures on the ballot.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear
Stateline Story

Lawmakers Move to Strip Governors’ Emergency Powers

Quick View
Stateline Story

Lawmakers Move to Strip Governors’ Emergency Powers

Critics worry about states responding to health crises and disasters.

Stateline Nov17
Stateline Nov17
Stateline Story

GOP Lawsuits Restrain Governors’ COVID-19 Actions

Quick View
Stateline Story

GOP Lawsuits Restrain Governors’ COVID-19 Actions

In most states, judges have tossed out the lawsuits or sided with governors.

 

Southern Vaccine Gaps Top State Stories 6/17
EXPLORE MORE FROM STATELINE
Places
Topics