Northam Needs To Be Reined In.
On March 12, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 51 declaring a state of emergency existed in the Commonwealth of Virginia due to the coronavirus. In doing so Northam invoked Virginia Code Section 44-146.17 which grants the Governor certain powers to issue Executive Orders in the event of a declared emergency. (I previously addressed the enforceability of Northam’s stay-at-home order here.)
Since the March 12, 2020 declaration of an emergency Northam has issued 20 (!) Executive Orders.
Northam apparently feels unconstrained in his purported power to issue Executive Order after Executive Order some of which amend previous Executive Orders. How any private citizen is expected by the Governor to keep track of his various orders is a mystery.
So how long can he continue doing this? Virginia Code Section 44.146-17 provides that “[no] rule, regulation, or order issued under this section shall have any effect beyond June 30 next following the next adjournment of the regular session of the General Assembly but the same or a similar rule, regulation, or order may thereafter be issued again if not contrary to law.” As far as I can tell no Virginia court has addressed this time limitation.
This code section, which provides for the imposition of criminal fines and jail time, must be limited by the courts. Governor Northam has even asserted he has the right to unilaterally suspend Virginia laws. See Executive Order 61, Paragraph (C)(3) at page 10 where Northam claims he has the right to obviate Virginia Code Section 18.2-422 which forbids wearing masks in public. This assertion runs directly contrary to the Virginia Constitution Article 1, Section 7 which forbids the Governor from suspending the operation of any laws.
Some of these issues are being addressed in the Hall v. Northam case which may be taken up by the Virginia Supreme Court. This case involves the assertion of Gold’s Gym that the Governor has overstepped his bounds. See Petition for Review here. Gold’s Gym is represented by Virginia State Senators Bill Stanley and Ryan McDougle.
Let us hope the Virginia Supreme Court takes this case and agrees to restrain Governor Northam from continuing to run wild.