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Is This Any Way to Run a Democracy?

By March 30, 2020Commentary

One of the biggest concerns I have regarding the handling of the coronavirus crisis is the manner in which decisions are being made.  Emergency powers are being exercised by Governors for far longer and in a more extensive manner than likely was ever intended or than is likely constitutional.  Our state legislatures are missing in action, unfortunately because many state legislators are happy to duck their responsibility to act.  No one individual should have the power to determine what people can and can’t do or what businesses can be open or closed or any of the myriad other restrictions contained in the executive orders being issued.  The legislature is the more representative body, its members have closer contact with the population and understand what the views of the people who elected them are.

Emergency powers were intended to be used for a very short time, until more normal governmental decision-making processes can be invoked.  We are several weeks into this crisis, with several more weeks or months to go.  Every state legislature should be in session, should be holding hearings, should be taking evidence and then deciding on appropriate measures and giving parameters for action to the executive branch.  There is absolutely no reason why in today’s world that is not possible.  It would allow legislators to hear from citizens affected both by the disease and the actions taken to mitigate spread; from businesses and other groups affected by the mitigation measures; and from medical, public health, economic and other experts.  This decision-making process would likely result not only in better decisions, because more viewpoints and information would be taken into account, but in decisions that are better accepted by the population.

So I encourage you to insist that your legislature go into session and address the issues, rather than allowing Governor’s to exercise unilateral unlimited power.  And the laws governing emergency powers need to be reformed to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

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