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Some lawmakers want to reign in governor's emergency orders

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

Republican state lawmakers want to reign in the governor’s ability to enact emergency orders.


After witnessing the power a governor can yield during a state of emergency, state Rep. Richard Collins (R-Millsboro) wants to revise that power.


Collins says the government is built on checks and balances between its three branches.


“...And the people’s voice comes from the General Assembly, their elected senators and representatives. And the people’s voice has been eliminated from this process,” said Collins.


Collins introduced a bill that would allow the governor to declare a state of emergency for 30 days, but after that time would require legislative approval to extend every month beyond that.


He says this bill isn’t designed to disparage the governor or his handling of the current Coronavirus pandemic, but to assess the mechanisms in place to respond to emergencies. 


“Do we want one person to control the government or do we want the representatives of the people, the people elect, to have a role in our government as well? And frankly until March of 2020, I never thought anybody had any question about that," said Collins. "But now, it is worrisome that we have fallen into the concept so easily.”


A similar debate is taking place in Michigan, where the legislature voted to revoke a law giving the governor unchecked emergency powers, and forcing them to use another law that requires legislative approval.


Other states, like Texas, give the legislature the ability to terminate an emergency order on their own.


Collins says this would make the governor and his cabinet more accountable and force them to be more transparent about an emergency.


He wants the bill considered later in the session, after the current emergency order is hopefully lifted.


Collins’ bill is only sponsored by Republican lawmakers; It would need support from a majority of Democrats, enough to override a potential veto from the governor, who might not be keen on giving up executive powers.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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