NEW REPORT: Declaring an Emergency: Cross-State Comparisons and Recommendations for Reform
The American system of government is a calculated structure of limited and separate governmental powers. In times of emergency, however, it may be necessary for a Governor or local chief executive to have greater power and flexibility in order to respond effectively to a specific set of events. All 50 states have acknowledged these unique needs with statutes that allow Governors to declare an emergency and operate with certain emergency powers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to country-wide declarations of emergency unlike ever before in modern American history. In light of these unique circumstances, there is an equally unique opportunity to examine state statutes that govern declarations of emergency and to propose reforms.
Emergency powers are “the exception to the foundation of liberal constitutionalism: the limited sovereignty of the state, which protects individuals from tyranny.” Vesting too much power in a single branch of government or individual throws off the delicate balance between the three branches of government, and this balance between the separate powers “is not merely a matter of convenience or of governmental mechanism. Its object is basic and vital.”
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