Bill proposes more authority to Va. General Assembly during state of emergency

Bill proposes more authority to Va. General Assembly during state of emergency
In this April 8, 2020 file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gestures during a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (Source: AP Photo/Steve Helber/AP)

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Virginia Delegate Tony Wilt from the Valley wants the General Assembly to be more involved when it comes to emergency orders.

The bill introduced by the local republican on July 29 would require executive emergency orders issued by Virginia’s governor that restrict, limit or prohibit lawful action by businesses, non-profits or individuals be approved by the state’s General Assembly before it can continue for more than 45 days.

“The legislation allows for a 45-day state of emergency declaration and anything beyond that, the Governor would be required to call in the General Assembly, and to give us the ability to weigh in on that state of emergency,” Wilt said.

While the governor is elected by Virginians, Wilt said so are the 100 Delegates and 40 State Senators that make up the General Assembly and he said they know the needs of their community and constituents.

“It affects the lives of every single citizen in the state of Virginia and I believe that they should have their voices heard when it comes to a declaration like this,” Wilt said.

Wilt said the governor currently has broad authority over emergency orders and their duration with little room for the General Assembly to weigh in.

Wilt said this is not a partisan issue, and it is an important issue for both parties to evaluate.

“There’s a continuing separation of powers. While the governor calling a state of emergency certainly falls in the governor’s purview,” Wilt said. “I think this is a good balance of giving the Governor that leeway to call the initial state of emergency, but you know, it just can’t go on forever,” Wilt said.

Wilt will propose the amendment at the General Assembly special session convening on August 18, but he said it would go through a lengthy process until potential approval in 2022.

In order for the amendment to be adopted into the Virginia Constitution, it would have to pass the General Assembly twice, with a legislative election in between each passage. It would then be placed on the ballot for approval by the voters.

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