News: Quick Takes

Powerful state senator questions governor’s 18-month state ’emergency’

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, chairs the Senate Finance Committee. (Image from ncleg.gov)
Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, chairs the Senate Finance Committee. (Image from ncleg.gov)

The leader of the N.C. Senate’s powerful Rules Committee took aim Tuesday at the governor’s long-running state of emergency linked to COVID-19.

“An emergency is a dangerous situation requiring immediate action,” said Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, in a news release. “The legislature delegated some power to the executive to act in an emergency because the executive can act immediately. Eighteen months into this pandemic, nobody can argue with a straight face that it’s a time-limited ‘emergency’ where the General Assembly does not have time to act. The governor needs to accept that this state must return to its normal system of government.”

Rabon’s comments followed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s latest meeting. The committee considered House Bill 264, which would rein in the governor’s emergency powers. A committee vote on H.B. 264 is scheduled for Wednesday.

The bill “mirrors previous language passed by the Senate,” according to the news release.

Under its provisions, a governor’s emergency declaration would head to the statewide elected Council of State. The 10-member council would have seven days to approve the declaration. Without approval, the declaration would expire. The governor “would not be able to issue an identical or substantially similar declaration,” according to the news release.

Even with support from the Council of State, the declaration eventually would be subject to authorization from the General Assembly. Lawmakers would need to act within 45 days of the declaration. Without majority approval in both chambers of the General Assembly, the emergency declaration would end. Once again, the governor would be barred from issuing a “substantially similar declaration for the same emergency.”

House Bill 264 is similar to Senate Bill 346, sponsored by Rabon and approved 28-21 in April. The Senate bill has been sitting in the House Rules Committee for four months without a hearing. The House bill, approved 69-50 in March, had been sitting untouched in the Senate for five months before Tuesday’s hearing.