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Legislature has abdicated its watchdog responsibility

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There are many reasons to be frustrated with the governor’s current use of emergency powers: a seemingly endless state of emergency, moving goalposts and the lack of transparency, to name a few. 

But equally frustrating is the Legislature’s inability to rein it in. It had the opportunity with HB103 in the 2021 legislative session. If enacted, the bill would have changed the emergency management statute to require the governor to obtain legislative approval via concurrent resolution before issuing any supplemental emergency proclamations. Many were surprised (and suspicious) when it was killed at the eleventh hour during conference committee after passing almost unanimously in both the House and the Senate. 

But it may not actually be all that surprising that the measure failed. After all, governmental checks and balances are good for the taxpayer but mean additional work and responsibility for the Legislature, which it might not necessarily want. Some lawmakers may feel that it’s both easier and more politically advantageous to leave the decision-making to the governor, who also will have to deal with the public scrutiny.

So while it’s fair to criticize the executive branch’s use of emergency powers, we should remember that the Legislature has the power to change it.

Politics might have killed HB103, but our elected representatives for now are letting us down. 

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