All but a handful were written by Republicans, many of whom from the outset viewed the restrictions as bad for business and infringements of personal freedom. While this suggests that the issue of emergency power is partisan, it is not entirely true: the legislation targets the powers exercised by the governors of both parties.
A list of bills from the National Conference of State Legislators shows that the range of proposals is both broad and inventive. An Arkansas state senator wanted fines for violating coronavirus restrictions refunded to violators. Lawmakers in six states, including Georgia and Oregon, want to prevent governors from placing limits on attendance at religious services. A measure in Maine would bypass restrictions on business by declaring that all businesses are essential in an emergency.
Most of the proposals, however, are simpler attempts to give lawmakers a word, often limiting the length of emergency declarations and requiring legislative approval to extend them. The Non-Partisan Uniformity of Laws Commission is reviewing emergency statutes to see if they need to be updated in light of the coronavirus crisis. But the American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business conservative group that has spent years cultivating ties with state lawmakers, beat them to the limit, circulating a so-called model law that is the basis of numerous state proposals.
Some experts call this a mistake. “The time for legislatures to deal with emergency declarations is not in the middle of an emergency, but before or after an emergency,” said Jill Krueger, North Region director of the Health Law Network. public, in Edina, Minn.
Indeed, virtually all states have at least one measure targeting a governor, whether in a legislative committee or in legislation.