West Virginia’s Governor (who was elected as a Democrat but who switched parties during an awkward speech at a Trump rally) “shut down” our State’s economy, citing his statutory powers to declare a “State of Emergency.” In each one of his ensuing executive orders mandating that private businesses close and cease operations, he cited the only “emergency powers” his lawyers could find available to him in the West Virginia Code. This is to control ingress and egress (coming and going) from a disaster area, as well as the power to control or restrict the travel and occupancy of people within that disaster area.
Anyone with common sense knows that this ingress/egress language refers to physical disasters, such as floods, mudslides, fires, earthquakes, etc., where you may have trees in the road, flooded roads, forest fires, and so on. No sensible person would dispute that the executive agencies of the state would be best suited to direct such things. But what he’s done in response to COVID-19 is to greatly expand his interpretation of that language to allow him to fill the roll of a temporary dictator. Who could have known that it would be so easy? All he had to do was to declare the entire State a “disaster area” and just control every aspect of it, citing the ability to control “ingress and egress,” etc., within a disaster area.
Take a look at Summers County – right next door to me. Two (2) total cases since it was declared a disaster area four (4) months ago:
Or my county – Monroe County – as of today. Fourteen (14) total cases since the “State of Emergency” began four (4) months ago. Zero (0) deaths. Twelve (12) have recovered. Three (3) current active cases. So three people have it currently, that they know of; nobody’s died; yet the other fourteen thousands or so people have to get used to the “new normal” of post-apocalyptic life. We’ve already been warned by the health experts, our new czars, that we could be wearing masks for years.
There are many more counties like these. How can such a county possibly be considered a disaster area, to which the government needs to control who is coming, going, or occupying the area? To get around this flawed logic, the Governor’s lawyers have alleged that disaster in these areas is imminent or anticipated. As Bulldog from the TV show Frasier would say, “that’s BS, total BS….”
If you actually look at the real statistics provided by the State, it shows that West Virginia’s COVID-19 “disaster” is nominal compared even to nearby states. Our case fatality rate is way lower; our percentage of population which tested positive is way, way, way lower; our percentage of positive tests number is also way, way, way lower. And look at the percentage of the population tested: West Virginia has tested more of its population than the others.
Why the hysterics and the theater from the Governor? Is he scared for his own safety because his health is so bad, that he would punish the rest of us in his own fear? Given that his personal resort, The Greenbrier, which caters to wealthy out-of-staters (from “hotspots”) is currently as busy as ever with guests walking around inside without masks, and given the fact that they are having a world tennis championship there this weekend, I doubt it. It’s more likely, in my opinion, that it’s nothing more than a power grab, similar to other state governors around the country.
The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
– Edmund Burke
Getting back to the point, let’s say that a disaster is imminent. A hurricane is coming, for instance; or an out-of-control fire is quickly closing in. Nobody would argue that the executive branch of State government should prepare for what is to come – obviously. But fast-forward four months later and no hurricane, flood, fire, or earthquake has every materialized? In such a situation does the Governor just get to continue to claim that every county in the State is a disaster zone? Does he get to close barber shops in both the northern panhandle, where there was a viral “hotspot,” and also a barber shop in a small county at the other end of the state where there has never been a problem? What if there’s no due process involved? No way to challenge it? All in the absence of authorization or participation by the State’s elected two-house legislature, which is supposed to be the voice and representation of the people?
It’s a poignant time to remember that the entire reason our country exists is because American colonists sought economic freedom from the tyranny and oppression of the British government. The colonies grew rich during the French and Indian War. Land prices were high, and both money and credit were abundant. Following the war, however, the money supply was restricted, as England sought to recoup its debts incurred during the war. Interest rates rose and real estate mortgages skyrocketed. Instead of helping, the British government made things worse, suing the colonies to alleviate its own economic problems, instead of assisting the American colonists.
You’ve heard the term, “no taxation without representation.” Well it was created long before the first Prius had a Washington D.C. license plate installed. It was the entire reason, in a nut shell, that the American Revolution was fought. Being a colony, despite being occupied by English citizens, the colonists had no representation in England’s Parliament. Parliament, along with King George, III, enacted legislation throughout the 18th century, which took a slice of the colonies’ profits. Being government, they took more and more until they encountered resistance.
In 1733, the Importation Act was passed, which required all colonial exports to be sent to England first, and in British ships. This deprived American businesses of the large majority of the world market for their lucrative products, and enriched the British establishment for reasons which provided no benefit to the colonies. The Act also created heavy duties on sugar, molasses, and rum. In 1750, Parliament declared that the Americans were not allowed to manufacture steel, so as to compete with British steel factories. They also tried to forbid Americans from harvesting pine trees, from what was a seemingly endless supply of wood (which was not so endless in Europe).
In 1761, Parliament passed a law authorizing customs officers to forcibly enter businesses and search for smuggled goods. A legal challenge ensued in the courts. During the trial, James Otis, a Boston patriot, stated, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” Remember: these are British citizens/subjects. This was not a foreign country. Yet they’re receiving unfair restrictions, while at the same time being prevented from having representation in Parliament.
In 1764, King George III’s ministry declared that Parliament had the right to (1) tax the colonies directly; (2) to tax the colonies indirectly; (3) to restrict the products which the colonies could manufacture; (4) to regulate the commerce of the colonies; (5) to break into houses in search of smuggled goods; and (6) to quarter troops among the colonists without their consent.
In 1765, Parliament passed The Stamp Act, which imposed a direct tax on the American colonies, requiring that many printed materials utilize paper produced in London, which carried an embossed stamp. This included newspapers and all legal documents, among many other things. Americans responded with a boycott. The Act was repealed in 1766. But then Parliament respondent with the Declaratory Act, a new series of taxes and regulations. Its main purpose was to illustrate to the colonists, that Parliament could, and would, do as it wanted, and that the colonists would not have direct representation in their decisions.
In 1767-68, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which were a series of laws designed to raise revenue in the colonies, enforcing compliance with trade restrictions, punishing New York for failing to quarter troops, and otherwise asserting the absolute right to directly tax the colonies without representation. Many patriots resisted, both physically and through boycotts. In 1770, this led to the Boston Massacre.
In 1770, most of the taxes from the Townshend Acts were repealed, except for the import duty on tea, which was kept in place for the purpose of demonstrating the subservient nature of the colonies vs. the British government itself. As you’ve probably heard, this didn’t end well, leading to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, and thereafter, the “Intolerable Acts” – more laws enacted without representation, which were passed for the sole purpose of punishing Boston for the Boston Tea Party.
In the Declaration of Independence, the Americans asserted 27 grievances against England, including the creation of taxes and economic restrictions without representation in Parliament. Also included in the grievances was the fact that many of the colonies attempted to enact legislation outlawing or restricting slavery. Virginia attempted to outlaw slavery in 1763. However, every time they tried, they were vetoed by the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State, and King George, III. Also contained in the grievances were complaints about the failure to provide fair trials, a fair judicial system, the failure to allow for legitimate colonial legislatures to exist, and the quartering of British troops in American homes. You see many, if not most of these grievances find their way into the U.S. Constitution, which would be ratified 15 or so years later, after many lives were lost to gain the freedom to ratify it.
Why is it important to resist living under the rule of a one-man State government? Even if you think he’s done a good job, which many people do, the bigger picture is the absolute necessity of preserving our rights and liberty under our constitutions. Once you allow one governor a pass to play dictator, you must by circumstance allow the next. And you might not like that, nor his choices. But it would be too late.
A Constitution of Government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost is lost forever.
– John Adams
Like Thomas Jefferson basically said, freedom is scary. We can’t allow our freedom to end where the fears of Karen/Ken begin.
Timid men . . . prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty.
– Thomas Jefferson (April 24, 1796)
We must follow the rules. Our two respective constitutions – the U.S. and the State – are the rules. And of the two, the State Constitution is much more simple and clear on this topic. The two house of the legislature enacts laws, and the governor enforces them. There is a distinct separation of powers. If the Governor tries to enact a law by himself, that violates the separation of powers. Not even the legislature can authorize him to do so. At least not without amending the State Constitution.