San Francisco Chronicle

Court OKs Newsom’s emergency powers

- By Bob Egelko Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: begelko@sfchronicl­ Twitter: @BobEgelko

Rejecting a judge’s ruling that sought to limit Gov. Gavin Newsom’s powers during the coronaviru­s pandemic, a state appeals court said Wednesday that lawmakers had authorized Newsom to issue widerangin­g executive orders to protect California­ns’ health until the emergency is over.

In a suit by two Republican legislator­s, Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman ruled Nov. 2 that Newsom had violated state law with a series of executive orders broadening access to mailin voting after declaring a state of emergency in May. Widening her scope to other orders that closed businesses and changed regulation­s and licensing procedures, she barred the governor from using the recently passed Emergency Services Act to issue decrees that establish or change any state law or legislativ­e policy.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento quickly put Heckman’s order on hold and ruled Wednesday that the Legislatur­e had approved Newsom’s exercise of emergency powers.

The Emergency Services Act gave the governor, during the COVID19 state of emergency, “complete authority over all agencies of state government,” with the power to issue “such orders and regulation­s as he deems necessary,” Presiding Justice Vance Raye said in the 30 ruling.

He said the law requires Newsom to give widespread public notice of his proposed orders, to issue them in writing and to end the state of emergency at the earliest possible date consistent with public safety.

“The statute gives the governor the responsibi­lity to provide a coordinate­d response to the emergency,” Raye said. “The law is not an unconstitu­tional delegation of legislativ­e power.”

The ruling “upholds the state’s ability to save lives and protect California­ns in response to a disaster — whether an earthquake, wildfire or this unpreceden­ted pandemic,” Newsom’s office said in a statement. “We will continue to lead with science and health as the state’s recovery progresses.”

City and county government­s supported the governor’s position in the case.

The plaintiffs, Assembly Members James Gallagher, RYuba City (Sutter County), and Kevin Kiley, RRocklin (Placer County), said they would ask the state Supreme Court to take up the case.

“The issue now squarely presented for the high court is whether the separation of powers still exists in California,” they said in a statement. “We are confident it will uphold this bedrock principle of constituti­onal government.”

Propertyri­ghts groups filed arguments in support of the suit. Attorney Luke Wake of the Pacific Legal Foundation criticized the ruling but said he hoped for a different result in a state appeals court in Fresno, in a suit by a miniature golf course shut down by Newsom’s orders in March.

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