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On April 1, Gavin Newsom told Bloomberg News he saw the coronavirus public health crisis as an “opportunity” to enact a political and ideological agenda. It wasn’t a case of April Fools.
Reporter: “Do you see the potential, as some others in the Party do, for a new progressive era, the opportunity for additional progressive steps because of this crisis?”
Newsom: “Yes, absolutely, we see this as an opportunity to reshape the way we do business and how we govern. There is opportunity for reimagining a progressive era as it pertains to capitalism. The answer is yes.”
Since then, Gov. Newsom has used his emergency powers for purposes outside the bounds of any public health threat, issuing 43 Executive Orders and changing over 200 California laws unilaterally. Democrat Assemblyman Phil Ting decried the Governor’s “complete authority to do whatever he wants.”
This executive lawmaking touches nearly every facet of California life, spanning 16 different legal codes: Businesses & Professions, Civil Procedure, Corporations, Education, Elections, Family, Financial, Government, Harbors & Navigation, Health & Safety, Labor, Public Resources, Revenue & Taxation, Unemployment Insurance, Vehicle, and Welfare & Institutions.
As one example, the Governor unlawfully bypassed the legislative process to proclaim California the nation’s first all-absentee voting state. As another, he presented a gift to trial lawyers by creating a presumption of liability for any business whose employee gets the virus, again without legislative approval.
The Governor also appointed the nation’s single biggest partisan political donor, vanity presidential candidate Tom Steyer, to lead California’s Economic Recovery Commission. Steyer immediately outlined goals for the Commission beyond economic recovery, such as “environmental justice.”
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst was so concerned about the Governor’s attempts to “sideline legislative authority,” he wrote a letter to Legislators identifying 12 separate attempts to expand his own power, including getting sole discretion to spend $600 million buying hotels for the homeless.
Even the California Legislature has rejected some of these moves: denying his bid for complete control over federal coronavirus aid; stopping him from raiding $131 million in protected gas tax revenue; and rebuking his plan to spend billions on High-Speed Rail.
This Governor’s conduct has exposed a dangerous flaw in the California Emergency Services Act: it provides inadequate checks on the abuse of emergency powers. I’m working on legislation to reform the Act so that no future Governor can use the extraordinary powers it confers for political ends.
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