The balance needs maintained
Last week, the West Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly supported a piece of legislation aimed at limiting some of the governor’s powers during states of emergency.
House Bill 2003 received 97 votes in favor, and zero votes against, with three members of the House not voting. The bill now is making its way through the state Senate for consideration.
This bill, at its core, is about ensuring the balance between the branches of our state government remains as it was designed.
Whether during regular operations or at times of emergency, no one portion of our government should yield all of the authority. But, in some ways, that has happened during the last year. Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency almost one year ago in relation to the COVID-19 virus. In that time, he has issued dozens of executive orders concerning pandemic response, the closing and opening of businesses and schools, the usage of face masks and more. The executive branch also has had control over the distribution of $1.25 billion issued to the state by the federal government under the CARES Act.
There has been no review of any of these actions by the Legislature, which is tasked with developing our laws.
Under HB 2003, any state of emergency declared in the state would have a limit of 60 days, unless extended by the Legislature, which would be called into special session.
Our form of government was established long ago to have three co-equal branches, each with powers to help ensure no single branch has full control. While we hope similar events do not happen in the future, if such action is needed to ensure the balance remains in times of crisis, we encourage the Senate to follow suit and approve this measure.