Bob Hren: Governor addicted to power |

Bob Hren: Governor addicted to power

What happened to our constitutional rights? An elected official’s oath requires defense of our rights, yet the governor and local officials have been abusing some of our basic protected rights.

The Constitution guarantees personal rights including the right to free speech, the right to freely exercise religion, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances, the right to not be deprived of liberty or property without due process of law, the right not to be assessed excessive fines, the right of equal protection, among others. Including the God-given and inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But wait — we are in a pandemic. The governor has proclaimed an emergency. He can thus deprive us of our constitutional rights by decree, correct?

Absolutely not. There is no pandemic exception or emergency exception in either the federal or California constitutions that allows the Constitution to be violated.

The “emergency powers” of the governor are not contained in the Constitution but rather in statutory provisions that are subservient to and cannot violate the Constitution.

The initial declaration of a state of emergency by the governor was justified by the great uncertainty of an impending novel virus. On March 18, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared that 25.5 million Californians would be stricken by the virus within eight weeks. That would be 65% of the population. Fear was rampant that emergency hospital facilities would be overrun. They never were and they never will be.

That declaration was not based on science. It was the first round of fear disinformation foisted on our citizens to justify an unlimited and unconstitutional power grab. The survival rate from the virus has been very high. And survivability is growing with better treatment options, the coming warm months, and the vaccine program.

The governor’s emergency powers are broad, but they do not include violating the Constitution. Nor do they permit the unilateral creation of new laws, which must come from the legislative branch.

This was litigated and settled in the case that challenged the unilateral declaration by Newsom of universal vote-by-mail for the state last November in Executive Order N-67-20. That was ruled to be a violation of the state Constitution that demands all laws be originated in the Legislative branch. Some other executive orders were also found to be unconstitutional. A permanent injunction was issued restraining the governor against issuing further unconstitutional orders.

Unfortunately, under the statutes, the state of emergency can only be ended when the governor decrees it or the Legislature (both houses) votes for ending it. This governor long ago lost his credibility and now hangs onto the emergency power that he gave himself like a drug addict hangs onto his stash.

In other words, he is addicted to the power. The one-party controlled state Legislature does not have the backbone to stand up to the governor and reclaim its separate legislative powers.

One recent stall tactic by Gov. Newsom was “equity” based. California had a “self-imposed threshold” which tied reopening to ensuring that populations in low-income communities were vaccinated first. Once that “equity” mark was reached, then all counties could more quickly move out of more restrictive tiers.

By not even challenging the governor, or at least asking the governor to listen to the county, our Board of Supervisors is providing more stash to this addict. The supervisors also are supporting the governor’s trampling of our constitutional rights. And that in the face of meekly allowing the governor last year to withhold $9 million owed to Nevada County under the CARES Act.

In the March 9 Board of Supervisors meeting, on the topic of the resolution related to asserting local perspectives on the response to COVID-19, at least one member stated that they have a duty to uphold the constitutions of the United States and California. That is absolutely correct. All the supervisors took the same oath that any elected official in California takes, and it requires this.

Later in that meeting, this same member prefaced his opposition to the local perspective resolution by wrapping himself in the patriotic flag of defending the Constitution. Nothing could be more perverse than using the Constitution to abuse constitutionally protected rights. It is easy to profess adherence to the Constitution and another to know what that means and to live by that oath.

It is time to bring that local perspective resolution back for reconsideration.

Bob Hren lives in Nevada County.


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