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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Md. GOP legislators make a bid to rein in executive orders

A state police trooper directs a flow of cars in downtown Annapolis participating in a protest against restrictions ordered by Gov. Larry Hogan to fight the spread of the coronavirus. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

A state police trooper directs a flow of cars in downtown Annapolis participating in an April 2020 protest against restrictions ordered by Gov. Larry Hogan to fight the spread of the coronavirus. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

Supporters of a resolution calling for an end to Maryland’s state of emergency related to the pandemic pleaded with a state legislative panel it is time to end what they called an overreach by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee held a hearing on House Joint Resolution Two, which would effectively end a state of emergency put in place in March and renewed 14 times by Hogan. Supporters told the committee that Hogan’s repeated extensions continue to violate the First Amendment.

“First and foremost, there’s a constitutionality that has to come into effect to ensure that the republic stays whole and healthy,” said Tim Walters, co-founder and chairman of ReOpen Maryland. “Secondly, we have an incredibly educated state. Give us the data and allow us the individual responsibility of taking care of our own lives versus directing things. The tyranny and lack of faith in the people are just two things that have come together in a perfect storm.”

ReOpen Maryland has held or sponsored a number of rallies calling for the easing of restrictions, including a car protest in Annapolis in April and another road rally from Frederick to the Eastern Shore.

Walters, who himself contracted the virus over the summer, said the group “acknowledges that the virus is real.”

The resolution sponsored by Dan Cox, R-Frederick, is unlikely to be voted out of the House Rules Committee. It is one of a number of legislative efforts some Republicans are pushing as they challenge Hogan’s emergency powers and declaration of a state of emergency.

Other bills are also under consideration, including one sponsored by Del. April Cox and Sen. Justin Ready that would create an oversight board appointed by local government leaders that could overrule orders issued by a county health officer. Del. Haven Shoemaker is the sponsor of a bill that would require a future governor to seek legislative approval to extend a state of emergency. All three lawmakers are Carroll County Republicans.

Hogan has repeatedly expressed opposition to such efforts, and in January called Dan Cox’s resolution “one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard in my life from the legislature.”

The governor said that without the state of emergency the state would have lost billions of dollars in federal aid and “we wouldn’t have been able to take actions that slowed the curve and saved thousands of lives.”

On Friday, Hogan renewed the state of emergency, for the 14th time, for another 30 days. That order would expire on Feb. 18 unless extended by the governor.

Since March, Hogan has issued more than 70 orders that closed the vast majority of businesses in the spring. Since then, the governor has eased some statewide mandates, leaving it to local officials to enact their own orders based on local conditions. The result, some say, has been a hodgepodge of confusing rules that vary from county to county.

“This has resulted in disastrous ruin,” said Cox.

Maryland has seen three spikes in the virus since the first cases were reported on March 5. Average daily cases, hospitalizations and acute patients all surpassed figures posted in the spring. Nearly one in every three of the 7,550 deaths reported as of Monday occurred in December and January.

Since reaching its peak on Jan. 12, the rolling seven-day average of new cases has fallen nearly 77% to 752. Hospitalizations over that same time have decreased by more than 49%. The number of acute patients has decreased by more than 52%, and the number of intensive care patients has declined by more than 39%.

The 572 people who have died in Maryland so far in February is less than half the number of deaths reported in January.

“This virus has not been impacted by any of these overreaches that have occurred,” said Walters. “It just hasn’t. It’s a virus.”

Under state law, a governor may impose a state of emergency for a period of 30 days and can renew that order for another 30 days without legislative review. The legislature, however, can end the state of emergency with majority approval of the House and Senate of a resolution such as Cox’s.

Cox said Hogan’s order represents a “seizure of all of our liberties.”

Cox last year unsuccessfully sued Hogan on behalf of a number of businesses and churches alleging the governor’s orders violated the Constitution.

Others have sued in a number of jurisdictions, claiming local orders allowed for under Hogan’s catastrophic state of emergency similarly were illegal.

“We must remain a republic,” said Cox. “That is what’s truly at stake.”

 


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