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With new COVID-19 cases and deaths plummeting, Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he will end many of the rules and restrictions he has imposed using more than 50 executive orders at the start of the pandemic – the Tuesday June 15. Specifically, top Newsom collaborators told reporters on a conference call Friday that his first state lockdown order of March 19, 2020 would then be lifted. This means Californians will be free in most cases to come and go as they please, without masks or social distancing.
Newsom also said he was in no rush to reverse the initial state of emergency linked to the pandemic. This means that he will retain extensive and largely uncontrolled power to act unilaterally, thanks to the California Emergency Services Act of 1970.
During the Friday appeal, a San Diego Union-Tribune columnist asked if Newsom was sending mixed messages – telling people they could return to mostly normal lives on Tuesday, but also noting that the state of The emergency continues.
Newsom staff defended the approach. Alex Pal, chief attorney for the state’s Office of Emergency Services, said an extension of the emergency order is needed because the pandemic is likely to have “long-term effects.” He said an emergency order was still in place for the area devastated by the 2018 camp fire in northern California. Ann Patterson, the governor’s legal secretary, said the most drastic rules would go away: âOn June 15 people are going to see life return to normal. “
Ultimately, time – and voters in the impending recall election Newsom faces – will judge how he has handled the pandemic and the unprecedented health and economic crises it has brought about. But it’s easy to predict mixed to good ratings, as people will most often remember the start and end of a seizure.
Newsom’s decision to make California the first state in the country to shut down its economy and tell people to stay home in March was a wise one. And despite some political missteps related to opening bars and restaurants before schools and his own infamous visit to a Napa Valley restaurant, Newsom and his administration have once again turned California into a model for the nation with the deployment of its vaccine.
While Newsom has generally advocated for its emergency actions, it has gone too far in one area. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned California’s ban on in-person worship services in February, and California settled two more cases with churches this week. This area is a stark reminder that in order for life to return to normal, the legislature again needs a say in state decisions – necessary control and balance. It should also be noted that in November, a judge of the State Superior Court agreed with two Republican lawmakers that the governor’s emergency powers gave him more leeway in administering existing laws, but did not allow him to unilaterally create new state laws, such as ordering the sending of ballots by correspondence to each voter.
It’s hard to imagine that most Californians are still following this case too closely, but those who are know that the Superior Court decision was almost immediately stayed by a state appeals court, which reversed the decision in May. The ruling stated that the state law of 1970 contained “an important safeguard” – the requirement that declarations of emergency be concluded as soon as possible. It’s essential.
To restore the necessary checks and balances to the California government, Newsom should cancel as many pandemic emergency orders as soon as possible. If a fourth wave of COVID-19 seems likely, it can always issue a new declaration of emergency.