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Emergency Powers Checks And Balances Act

Concerning limitations on emergency orders that bind or regulate the public.
2020 Extraordinary Session
General Assembly
Public Health
State Government
Bill Summary

The bill limits the power of the governor and other state and local officials with respect to emergency orders, decrees, regulations, or other mandates (emergency orders) that bind or regulate the public by:

  • Requiring emergency orders that bind, curtail, or infringe the rights of private parties to be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public health or safety purpose and limited in duration, applicability, and scope in order to reduce any infringement of individual liberty;
  • Stating that state courts have jurisdiction to hear cases challenging the lawfulness of state and local emergency orders, requiring courts to expedite consideration of such challenges so that they are heard within 72 hours of being filed and to apply a strict scrutiny standard of judicial review when reviewing such challenges, and stating further that inequality in the applicability or impact of emergency orders on analogous groups, situations, and circumstances may constitute a ground for a court to invalidate or enjoin an emergency order, or some of its applications, as not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public health or safety purpose;
  • Allowing only the governor to issue an emergency order that infringes constitutional rights in a nontrivial manner and specifically identifying as constitutional rights the rights to travel, work, assemble, and speak; freedom of religious exercise; the nonimpairment of contract and property rights; freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and freedom to purchase lawful firearms and ammunition;
  • Further limiting such infringing emergency orders by:
  • Making an emergency order expire in 7 days unless the general assembly is in a regular legislative session and has at least 15 days to consider and vote to ratify, by a 2/3 supermajority vote, or terminate, by a simple majority vote, the emergency order or the governor calls the general assembly into a special legislative session for the purpose of considering and voting on the emergency order; and
  • If the 7-day expiration does not apply, making any such order expire in 30 days unless:
  • The governor or the general assembly terminates the order sooner; or
  • The general assembly, by a 2/3 supermajority vote, adopts a joint resolution ratifying the order during the 30-day period;
  • Authorizing each house of the general assembly to vote to ratify or terminate emergency orders by remote debate and electronic or other means; and
  • Stating that if, during the pendency of a given emergency, the governor reissues any emergency order or issues another emergency order that is substantially similar to an emergency order that expired without legislative approval or that the general assembly terminated, the reissued or substantially similar emergency order shall not take effect unless the general assembly, by a 2/3 vote of the members of each house, adopts a joint resolution ratifying the emergency order.

The bill also states that state and local officials may issue nonbinding recommendations and guidelines that do not include provisions for enforcement or surveillance and that they may help coordinate public and private action to prevent or respond to an emergency.

(Note: This summary applies to this bill as introduced.)




Bill Text


Sponsor Type Legislators
Prime Sponsor

Rep. S. Humphrey
Sen. V. Marble


Rep. R. Champion, Rep. R. Pelton, Rep. M. Soper, Rep. D. Williams


The effective date for bills enacted without a safety clause is August 7, 2024, if the General Assembly adjourns sine die on May 8, 2024, unless otherwise specified. Details