The Art of The Emergency Declaration
For the past several months, Nevada has been subject to the Governor’s Emergency Declaration, brought about by the spread of COVID-19. The declaration itself was rooted from Nevada Revised Statute 414.0345, the text of which is available below. In short, the state grants the Governor broad authority to declare an emergency when the lives of Nevadans are threatened.
For decades, it had been understood that the invocation of this power was to be the result of imminent threat or damage from natural disasters. One need not look past the many fires, floods, and severe weather events in Nevada to find dozens of examples. One unforeseen issue covered under this provision: viral outbreak. COVID-19 has been a threat to Nevada’s economy and elderly population. We all have more information now than in March. In March, if we all remember, all we knew about COVID-19 was the devastating death toll being reported worldwide. We had seen COVID hit Seattle, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and finally San Francisco with devastating effects. At the time, no one knew how it was transmitted, who was susceptible to the disease, nor who was at greatest risk. Five months on, there are many questions which remain unanswered, but we do in fact know more. We can statistically identify those at greatest risk. We can quantify how long the virus can survive on various non-organic surfaces. Most importantly, there are nearly half a dozen candidate vaccines in clinical trials. If successful, these could be the best step forward in calming the nerves of everyone worldwide.
The aftermath, however, comes in the precedent set by not only the COVID declaration, but in the pandering to the woke mobs over the past several weeks. Throughout the nation, Governors have broadly interpreted their authority under the Emergency Declaration statutes. Governor Sisolak is no exception. As has been said in many quarters, this column included, Governor Sisolak has run
NRS 414.0345 “Emergency” defined. “Emergency” means an occurrence or threatened occurrence for which, in the determination of the Governor, the assistance of state agencies is needed to supplement the efforts and capabilities of political subdivisions to save lives, protect property and protect the health and safety of persons in this state, or to avert the threat of damage to property or injury to or the death of persons in this state.
roughshod over Nevadans and their rights since his declaration. As has been said many times, Nevadans were willing to “shelter in place” to protect their friends, family, and neighbors. Nevadans willingly took on the pain and uncertainty of closing their businesses, stepping away from their places of worship, and even shuttering the halls of education specifically because Nevadans, when the chips are down, will always have each other’s backs. Unfortunately, the Governor took advantage of and squandered the people’s good will through inconsistency, lack of clarity, and the selected application of the legal system.
But what next? What lies beyond the horizon of this crisis? What constitutes the end of the current crisis? Is that written down anywhere?
It turns out that not only does the declaration of an emergency reside wholly within the office of the Governor, so does the ending of the declaration. Is the current COVID crisis over when there are no more cases? Is it over when there are no more deaths? Is it over when the Governor finishes his tenure? Unknown… undefined… open ended… much like the Governor’s policies and communication.
As we all know, the far left has been screeching about the world coming to an end by 2030. Congresswoman Cortez of New York famously declared in 2018 we had “only 12 years left”… gentlemen, start the clock. So, is that an emergency? By her words, and parroted by all the Democrat Presidential candidates in the lead up the 2020 election, we will all die at the end of the coming decade. Does that not require that the Governor call an emergency and demand that all internal combustion engines, air travel, and plastics are outlawed? What about cattle and their flatulence? What about water rights and use throughout the state? Should it be diverted more toward the cities and away from the rural areas? With the basic blocks having been laid, the next step is sadly primed for implementation.
Governor Sisolak signed a proclamation declaring racism a public health crisis. In the Proclamation, he states that systemic racism produces health, safety and criminal justice disparities which constitute a “public health crisis”, similar to the COVID crisis and global warming, which would then lend itself to an Emergency Declaration.
Therein lies the danger. Emergencies always exist. Challenges, dangers, and crises are around every corner. What does and doesn’t rise to the level of an Emergency Declaration is an open-ended question, much like the duration of an emergency. One could reasonably assume that the ability of the Legislature to meet in Special Session and conduct business would itself signal a return to normality and an end of the Emergency Declaration, but that has not been the case. We still exist under extraordinary and far reaching powers granted to the Governor, with no relief in sight.
It is reasonable, therefore, to ask the question, “But what of power grabs and over-reach? How do we protect against abuses of power?” Such questions are met with the reflexive response “no reasonable elected officer has ever stepped so far as to abuse the intent of the emergency authorization power.” While this is true, it is no way to run a lemonade stand, let alone the State of Nevada. Governor Sisolak and the Democrat leadership in Nevada have proven themselves willing to stretch the bounds of credulity in the past few weeks. Assembly Bill 4 shattered the covenant of trust between citizen and government to conduct fair and secure elections introducing a new golden age of Tammany Hall politics. In the Nevada Legislature, Democrats launched assaults on the Nevada Constitution by sidelining/ignoring the Constitutionally required two-thirds vote to present amendments and new taxes. Although these are not the only examples, they are enough to prove that politics, not the law, are front of their minds.
The line has been blurred between daily life and daily danger. The line has been blurred between government authority and authoritarianism. We cannot let the line be further blurred between complacency and acquiescence.