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Jackson County lobbies Oregon legislature to limit Governor's emergency powers

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners sent a letter to the Governor and lawmakers on Friday, urging them to change the law under which she issued the current coronavirus state of emergency.

Posted: Jun 15, 2020 5:33 PM
Updated: Jun 15, 2020 5:49 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson County officials on Friday sent a letter to Oregon lawmakers, urging them to limit the Governor's "unchecked authority" during a state of emergency like the one currently in place due to coronavirus. Each of the Jackson County commissioners signed the letter, which was reportedly emailed to Governor Brown and each member of the state legislature.

The commissioners acknowledged that coronavirus posed a public health emergency "the likes of which Oregon, the United States, and the entire world have not faced in a generation." Nonetheless, Jackson County's leaders said that Governor Brown's executive orders have accomplished what they initially set out to do — flattening the curve.

"Oregon has indeed 'flattened the curve' and is arguably in an enviable position as compared to other states with regard to novel coronavirus infections," the commissioners wrote. "However, these dramatic restrictions on the everyday lives of Oregonians continue and have resulted in soaring unemployment, business closures, and the inability to come together for gatherings as fundamental as church services."

While Oregon health officials did proclaim that the state had succeeded in flattening the progression of COVID-19 cases as counties neared reopening, the past several weeks have seen a rise in confirmed cases not seen since the pandemic began, prompting both the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Brown to pump the brakes on some counties reopening.

Oregon over the past week became one of the top three states in the nation for increasing coronavirus cases, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The Oregon Supreme Court last week affirmed Governor Brown's power to issue executive orders for the current public health crisis free of a statutory time limit under ORS Chapter 401, but the Jackson County Board of Commissioners argued that the long-term state of emergency indicated by Brown — likely until a vaccine or effective treatment can be deployed — is inappropriate under the statute.

"While this level of authority may be appropriate for a short-term state of emergency caused by a fire, earthquake, or other natural disaster, as applied to an emergency like the novel coronavirus, the Governor has essentially unchecked authority to issue orders for an unlimited amount of time which dramatically impact the lives of everyday Oregonians," the commissioners wrote.

The letter asks lawmakers, "hopefully with the support of the Governor," to amend ORS Chapter 401 in order to add limitations — like those in a separate statute specifically covering public health emergencies (ORS Chapter 433), which requires renewal by the legislature every 28 days.

"Whether or not an individual agrees or disagrees with the actions Governor Brown has taken during the current novel coronavirus emergency, no one can reasonably disagree, we hope, that the scope of unchecked and unreviewed authority Governor Brown is claiming regarding her authority under ORS Chapter 401 is antithetical to a democratic society with an elected Legislature who is the representative body of the people of Oregon," Jackson County's leaders wrote. "The people, through their elected representatives in the Legislature, should have an opportunity to review such dramatic actions taken by a Governor, regardless of which particular Governor takes them."

While the state of emergency under ORS Chapter 401 can be terminated by the Governor, it can also be terminated "at any time by joint resolution of the Legislative Assembly," according to a provision of the law itself. There has not yet been any indication that a significant portion of the legislature supports ending the state of emergency or will endeavor to see it ended at present.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21774

Reported Deaths: 368
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah501498
Washington316125
Marion297973
Umatilla231230
Clackamas157144
Malheur82213
Deschutes61610
Lane5963
Jackson4862
Yamhill47013
Lincoln4199
Union3952
Jefferson3774
Morrow3773
Polk32612
Linn29611
Klamath2042
Hood River2010
Wasco1943
Benton1716
Douglas1561
Josephine1242
Columbia1010
Coos910
Clatsop890
Crook501
Baker400
Tillamook340
Lake320
Wallowa191
Curry170
Sherman160
Harney100
Gilliam40
Grant40
Wheeler00
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 578946

Reported Deaths: 10523
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2108744999
Riverside41983820
Orange40527724
San Bernardino36072546
San Diego32975594
Kern24995183
Fresno17846171
San Joaquin13870235
Alameda13631205
Santa Clara12962207
Sacramento12274179
Tulare11549198
Stanislaus10264169
Imperial9867244
Contra Costa9787146
Ventura874093
San Francisco769267
Santa Barbara699672
San Mateo6431122
Merced573670
Monterey549437
Marin540481
Kings445356
Solano427441
Sonoma375350
Madera246339
Placer237724
San Luis Obispo227817
Yolo183444
Santa Cruz12876
Butte12388
Napa112911
Sutter9967
San Benito7654
El Dorado7552
Lassen6830
Yuba6664
Mendocino47210
Shasta46910
Glenn4363
Colusa3965
Nevada3571
Tehama3031
Humboldt2864
Lake2402
Amador1853
Mono1581
Tuolumne1552
Calaveras1471
Inyo1063
Siskiyou1020
Del Norte1000
Mariposa622
Plumas360
Modoc50
Trinity50
Sierra40
Alpine20
Unassigned00
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