Virginia Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) recently sponsored Senate Bill 5025, which called for the limitation of public health emergency orders by the Virginia Health Commissioner. It was unanimously passed by the Senate before moving to the House, where the Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions killed the bill by voting along party lines.
Newman called his bill the “last attempt to limit the Governor’s Executive Powers.” Newman posted an impassioned Facebook post about SB 5025, explaining that:
“The bill’s sole purpose is to clarify what current Virginia law already says…which is, the Virginia Commissioner of Health is given emergency authority over issues of public health only when the 15-member Board of Health isn’t meeting. Virginia’s Board of Health is made up of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospital administrators, veterinarians, dentists, and citizens. Their stated mission is to advocate for the citizens of Virginia and they meet throughout the year…most recently via Zoom. Our current Commissioner of Health has been acting autonomously on their behalf for the last six months…despite the fact that the Board met twice- once in June and once again the first week of this month. Oddly enough…the Board didn’t take any actions on COVID-19 related items. I assume it’s because the Commissioner has things ‘under control.’”
Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s office presented the greatest opposition to the bill. Rita Davis, legal counsel to Governor Northam, was tasked with stating multiple reasons why the legislation was both practically and legally problematic via Zoom meeting.
Davis’s main argument was that the bill actually gives the Board of Health authority to approve the governor’s executive actions because the eight orders issued by Northam so far during COVID-19 have been in conjunction with the health commissioner.
But as Newman pointed out, “The Governor seems to be very frightened of ANY outside input on his emergency Executive Orders…even outside input that is designed in current law. As I’ve said before, it is definitely EASIER to govern on your own…it’s much more difficult to ensure you get your way when outside opinions get involved. And constitutional government is designed this way for a reason! … Folks, what we are experiencing right now in Virginia is not constitutional government. And this should concern each of us greatly. We are living by Executive Orders…signed by the Governor and Commissioner of Health. Two individuals. No checks and balances with the Legislative Branch. And when the Legislative Branch does bring outside ideas as to how we should be governing and living in the age of COVID-19, the Governor sends his attorney to squash the ideas before they even have a chance to succeed.”
Newman continued, “Other states have limits imposed on the single rule of an individual, even in times of emergencies. It's shameful that the House of Delegates have forfeited their responsibilities to the Executive Branch. Other states have figured out how to retain checks and balances, but partisanship is more important to House Democrats than representative government.”
Virginia continues to march firmly to the far-left after maintaining a largely Republican stance for many years.