When COVID emergency is over, lawmakers should limit governor’s emergency powers – Whittier Daily News

FILE – California Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses his 2022-2023 state budget review during a news conference in Sacramento, California on Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

If only one word could be used to describe how California has responded to the virus, it would be “irregular.”

To be fair, neither of us really knew what we were dealing with.

But has the barrage of restrictions, mandates, and endless power grabs resulted in a healthier, safer California?

Consider the roller coaster ride of rules imposed since the pandemic began.

California took a controversial position from the start. There was the “two weeks to flatten the curve.”

Then another two weeks and so on.

In those early days, fear gripped the nation, people were less resilient to such onerous restrictions.

The governor invoked emergency powers and did most of the decision-making.

However, as time went on, people began to question the effectiveness of the forced closures of businesses, schools, parks and even churches.

Relatives in hospitals and nursing homes suffered alone, many of whom unfortunately also died alone, as regulations prohibited them from being with their family members, even vaccinated ones.

Many shops are permanently closed.

Children developed major depressions that are still ongoing today, almost three years after the pandemic began.

A year into the pandemic, the governor was under significant pressure to reopen schools. The governor responded by releasing his California Safe Schools For All plan.

School districts opposed the plan, saying there was a lack of funding details. The Los Angeles Teachers’ Union went a step further and issued a ransom demand that even the Legislature was unable to meet, such as defunding the police force, state health insurance and an additional tax levy on those demands.

It took months before the promise of schools reopening was actually fulfilled.

We received strict warnings from the governor not to gather in public. “We don’t want to mix anything. Point,” were his words. Indoor dining was banned in most parts of the state. Politicians told us not to meet up with family during the holidays. Then we learned about the governor’s infamous indoor dining at an upscale restaurant called French Laundry, surrounded by lobbyists and friends who weren’t seen wearing masks. His reaction to the criticism? “I made a bad mistake.”

So many restrictions were imposed only to be lifted and then reinstated a few months later.

The problem was compounded by the governor’s reluctance to share information with the Legislature, opting instead to hold press conferences to brief the Legislature and the media on the next big change. Representatives from his own party began to raise grievances like that of Representative Friedman, who said, “I would have liked to have had a better understanding of the reasons behind many of these decisions and the data behind them.”

In 2021, I introduced Senate Bill 448, the Emergency Powers Limitation Act, to limit a governor’s powers during a state of emergency. It required that an emergency directive be narrowly tailored and limited in time. The bill was never heard. Interestingly, many of my Democratic colleagues expressed a desire to pass the law, but overstepping the governor was a political risk they were unwilling to take.

Had there been limitations on the governor’s emergency powers, policy change decisions would have gone through the legislature, allowing lawmakers to get important input from their districts first. The one-size-fits-all approach would have been replaced with a balanced approach that takes into account the unique circumstances of each district.

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