House Gives Final Approval to Bill to Rein in Governor’s Unilateral Emergency Powers
Raleigh, NC – Today, the North Carolina House gave final approval to the Emergency Powers Accountability Act (House Bill 264), which strengthens and clarifies current emergency management laws to restore checks and balances over the Governor’s executive powers during an extended emergency.
“The legislature must address the endless duration of power that has been granted to the Governor during a self-declared and boundless state of emergency,” said Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort), who the primary sponsor of House Bill 264. “Simply put, there is no unilateral rule in a constitutional republic. This legislation reinstates much needed checks and balances over the Governor’s unlimited emergency powers.”
Specifically, the legislation requires the Governor to get concurrence from the Council of State for an emergency declaration lasting more than seven days – and legislative approval for it to extend beyond 45 days.
“We have now been under the Governor’s self-declared state of emergency for over 580 days – with no agreement, oversight or input from the Council of State or the General Assembly,” said House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne), who is also a primary sponsor of the legislation. “No one person, regardless of party, should have the unilateral authority to shut down the state for an indefinite amount of time. This legislation is not about politics or what the Governor has or has not done. It is about clarifying the law to restore checks and balances.”
The Council of State consists of a bipartisan group of ten statewide elected executive offices established by the state constitution, including the Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner and Secretary of State.
Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) added, "During the pandemic, our Governor ignored his statutory duty to seek the concurrence of the bipartisan council of state before declaring a state of emergency. With no end date in sight, North Carolina has remained in a perpetual state of emergency for a total of 589 days. The need for checks and balances is arguably most crucial during a statewide emergency. No one individual should have the ability to exercise unilateral power during such an emergency."
The legislation, which passed by a vote of 65-45, now goes to the Governor’s desk.