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Will state legislatures keep rolling over for tyrannical governors?


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Even if one believes government has the legal right and the scientific backing to destroy our lives over a virus, shouldn't such decisions be made by a legislative body? This is a simple proposition anyone who supports representative democracy should rally behind, yet 10 months into the greatest government display of control of our lives, we continue to have health departments making the most consequential decisions of all time without legislative input. Governors continue to tell legislatures to mind their own business, and the response from most GOP-dominated legislatures has been tepid at best.

There is no virus that can possibly prevent legislators from weighing in, at least not after a few days into the initial emergency. We should all agree that if the actions taken by the governors, mayors, and health departments are so compelling, then the legislature should easily be able to approve them — if not within hours or a day, certainly within a week. As such, any decision that is made against the life, liberty, or property of an American — from business and school closures to quarantining and masking — should only be made by an elected body within just a few days of the presumed emergency.

Are the 31 GOP-controlled legislatures passing these bills, even in the 19 states where they command veto-proof majorities? Very few of them are going far enough, although some are headed in the right direction. Idaho, Ohio, and North Dakota are examples of some states where one chamber has passed meaningful limitation on the governor's orders. However, one to two months into the legislative sessions, not a single state has effectively checked the dictatorial powers yet with a categorical bill passed by both chambers.

Last week, the New Hampshire House passed a bill zeroing out all fines levied against businesses and individuals under emergency health orders. Shockingly, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said, "We can't claim to support law and order, then incentivize law-breaking and reward those who do not follow the rules."

From following these efforts in numerous states, I get the sense that this is the belief held by nearly every governor in the nation. They believe they have the right to legislate against the most intimate parts of a citizen's life, and in turn, the legislature has no businesses getting involved. Sununu believes that the legislature is being lawless by interfering with his private "laws."

It's not surprising that governors believe they should have as much power as possible. What is shocking, though, is that state legislatures are not more aggressively checking their power and appear content to allow governors to continue ruling as kings. For example, the GOP supermajorities in West Virginia failed to apply limitations to the current declared emergency. Indiana's supermajorities refuse to fully check the power of the liberal RINO Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The scary thing is that the clock is ticking on state legislative schedules, and many of them will be out of session within a few weeks, which will enable governors to rule without any checks and balances for the next eight to nine months. At a minimum, states must pass bills forcing the governors to call the legislatures back into session as soon as governors declare an emergency or give the legislature itself the ability to call itself back in to session.

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