Valley delegate’s bill to limit governor’s power in declaring a state of emergency loses traction

Valley delegate’s bill to limit governor’s power in declaring a state of emergency loses traction

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Legislation introduced by a Shenandoah Valley delegate that aimed to limit the governor’s power declaring a state of emergency has been shot down once again.

Del. Tony Wilt of the 26th District House of Delegates introduced similar legislation like HJ 513 over the summer during the General Assembly’s special session.

At that time, Wilt said the resolution was shot down due in part because the speaker decided to focus on legislation that was primarily the budget and criminal justice reform.

“Because it was not taken up then, I decided to reintroduce it during the regular session,” Wilt said.

The resolution would have limited the authority of the governor to issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency that restricts, limits or prohibits otherwise lawful action by a private business, nonprofit entity or individual for a period of more than 45 days in duration without approval by the General Assembly.

A similar situation the commonwealth is in now, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“An executive order has the weight of law and I think the legislative body needs to be able to weigh in on the issue,” Wilt said. “And if the governor wants to continue on we may agree with them.”

Wilt said this possible amendment to the state’s constitution was not aimed at any specific governor and would likely not appear on the ballot for a few years, but it is something he’s been advocating for since the pandemic first started.

“Thirty-four other states have limitations on their governors on these executive orders, so it’s not like we’re breaking new ground here. So I would say they realize too the importance and that’s where I was coming from,” Wilt said.

The commonwealth has been under a state of emergency for almost a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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