Governors face growing pushback

May 13, 2021
By: Laura Lacy Graham

According to Governing, if 2020 was the year of the governor, 2021 is shaping up to be its end, as lawmakers across the country begin to curtail the sweeping powers of their state executives, following a pandemic and concurrent economic shutdown that led governors to flex their authority in historic new ways. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that governors in at least 40 states are facing legislation aimed at limiting their emergency powers; since March 2020, 10 bills in eight states have been signed into law that are aimed at increasing legislative oversight of governors’ emergency powers.

These new laws were enacted in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Last month, governors in Idaho, Indiana, and Montana  all faced measures limiting their powers,all of which were vetoed, with only Idaho Gov. Brad Little appearing to be successful in fending off the challenge, while Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is suing his state’s legislators over a new measure that gives them more authority to intervene when the state’s chief executive declares an emergency.

Bucking the trend, Wyoming legislators decided to remove their legislative approval in a crisis, even though lawmakers felt they were giving the state’s executive too much power.