Enough: One-man rule needs to end
Assemblyman Vince Fong
February 13, 2021
California is nearing the one-year mark of the proclaimed state of emergency by Governor Gavin Newsom. The resilient people of California have endured absolute upheaval of their lives and means of earning a living in order to combat this pandemic. However, the public is rightfully frustrated as the Governor continues to mandate confusing shutdowns, move goalposts in a manner that defies logic, and is not transparent with the data in which he is making his decisions.
As frustration continues to grow in every part of the state, our current situation is a reminder to all of us why proper checks-and-balances are so important and foundational to a representative democracy and a functional state. The checks-and-balances in our Constitution are a mechanism to ensure transparency and accountability in our government.
Governor Newsom has had one-man rule status under the declared state of emergency for nearly a year, which is a dangerous proposition. The California Emergency Services Act (CESA) of 1970 grants the Governor sweeping power to suspend regulatory statutes that may hinder or delay the mitigation of impact during a state of emergency without the approval of the Legislature. By design, CESA affords the Governor important flexibility to be nimble and implement a swift response to instantaneous calamities such as earthquakes, riots or a collapsing dam.
CESA was not intended to allow the Governor to sidestep or unilaterally change laws that directly contradict the will of the people. Most importantly, CESA was never intended to be used as an instrument of Governor Newsom's rule by decree or enforcement of his preferred policies, especially not in the name of a public health crisis.
Emergency executive powers were designed to be very temporary and do not justify Governor Newsom's open-ended overreach – and the courts agree.
My republican colleagues, Assemblyman James Gallagher and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, successfully filed lawsuits to challenge Newsom's executive overreach and prevented him from unilaterally changing state laws without the approval of the State Legislature.
To curb Newsom's unilateral reign and finally restore our state's constitutional checks-and-balances, I authored AB 108, which limits the Governor's one-man rule by requiring the Governor to seek approval from the legislature before enacting any changes to laws or regulations starting 60 days after declaring a state of emergency.
Since March 2020, Governor Newsom has not only operated without accountability by running roughshod over California's checks-and-balances, but he has also kept the public in the dark over what data he is using to make his decisions.
Over and over again, the Governor has failed to produce data to show that specific industries are responsible for the spread of COVID-19. His administration tried to justify not making the COVID data transparent, including re-opening and shutdown decisions, by stating that the data is too complex and confusing for the public to understand.
There is a growing sentiment from the public that they cannot trust what is being said by this Governor and his administration. They are increasingly feeling like all the moving of the goal posts and arbitrary decisions to shut down and open certain industries and regions are not truly based in science.
As a lawmaker in Sacramento, I am calling for an oversight hearing to specifically question the Administration about the data they are using to make their decisions. The public can no longer be kept in the dark about how Sacramento politicians are making such significant decisions that have permanently impacted so many lives. Our efforts to preserve the principle of checks-and-balances is not just a concept in civics textbooks – it's critical for protecting the foundation of our representative democracy.