California’s Endless ‘Emergency’ – WSJ

As this column is being written the website of the federal Centers for Disease Control shows two straight days without a single Covid-19 death in the state of California. Just like everywhere else in the U.S., the widespread availability of vaccines plus natural immunity has caused a welcome collapse in Golden State coronavirus cases. But that doesn’t mean that California’s Democratic governor is willing to relinquish his emergency powers.

The editorial board of the Orange County Register observes:

In his State of the State speech in March, Newsom vowed that California is “not going back to normal.” Now we are seeing the mechanism he had in mind. California will remain in a state of emergency, under one-man rule, until the disease has “vanished,” a goal that may well be unattainable.

By any measure—case rate, fatality rate, hospitalizations, hospital capacity, available vaccines—the conditions that prompted Newsom’s emergency declaration in March 2020 have abated…

The governor has moved the goalposts again, this time clear off the field and out of the stadium.

But this is no game, as the Register wisely notes, adding:

Newsom has issued more than 50 executive orders that suspended, amended or changed hundreds of laws affecting schools, elections, public access to government meetings, public contracts, debt collections, welfare payments, homelessness programs and more. When the state of emergency is ended, all executive orders issued under it are null and void, and the governor loses the power to impose new emergency orders unilaterally.

In Sacramento, it’s good to be the king. But it’s not so good for the citizens of the nation’s most populous state. “When will California’s state of emergency stop being an emergency?,” asks the editorial board at the Los Angeles Times. The Times notes:

California’s Emergency Services Act doesn’t detail when an emergency declaration should be made or terminated. It leaves it up to the discretion of the governor to determine what constitutes an emergency and to decide when it’s over. The only imperative is that the latter happens “at the earliest possible date that conditions warrant.”

… he is holding on to the broad emergency powers that allow him to unilaterally suspend and alter laws, curtail people’s private movements and award no-bid contracts, an authority Newsom has used at times to direct state dollars to his campaign donors.

Indeed, the crisis that gripped the state just a few months ago is gone.

The Times editorialists note that a continuing official “emergency” allows California to keep drawing on federal Covid funding. But even Californians who aren’t federal taxpayers should ask whether it’s worth continuing infringements on their liberty.

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