Governors are the managers of their respective states. With this, they are responsible for implementation of state laws as well as overseeing the operations of the state’s executive branch. Governors advance and pursue new, updated policies and programs using tools similar to the Presidents, at a lower level (executive orders, executive budgets, vetoes, etc.). Governors work closely with various agency and department heads in order to carry out the responsibilities and objectives of their position.
During a time of emergency, the governor is responsible for ensuring their state is prepared. Most emergencies within a state are handled at a local legal level. Governors must be prepared for day-to-day events, as well as catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina or the September 11th attacks. In times like these, states focus on four states of disaster/emergency management; Prepare, Prevent, Respond, and Recover. Also during an emergency, the people look to the governor for updates, instructions and public order.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given many state governors a feeling of empowerment as resources are becoming scarce and the needs of the people become increasingly abundant. Governors are stepping up and showing their citizens the true powers and leadership that comes with holding the position of Governor; this includes stepping up when the federal government has not.
On March 12, President Trump officially declared a National Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, by March 12th, the State of New York already had 325 total confirmed cases and by then Ohio had five confirmed cases. Both Governors were strategic in protecting their citizens, trying to be as efficient as possible. On March 7th, Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY) issued an executive order declaring a Disaster Emergency in the State of New York, and on March 9th, Governor Mike DeWine (OH) declared a State of Emergency in Ohio.
Recently, President Trump stated that the Presidency gives him total authority to do as he wishes in relation to the pandemic. However, this is not entirely accurate. The 10th Amendment of the Constitution guarantees states the power to promote public health and welfare. This includes implementing mandates to enforce social distancing, wearing masks, and other preventative measures as we continue to fight this virus. Despite the claims made by President Trump, according to Kathleen Bergin, a professor at Cornell Law School, “he certainly has no power to override the type of measures that have been taken across the country that have proved successful in flattening the curve”.
In the beginning of the pandemic, many politicians tossed around the idea of a national “lock-down”, although President Trump repeatedly dismissed this. “Governors have ‘broad discretion’ to restrict and police movement within the state, such as the 43 states with some version of a stay-at-home order have done. . . But while the president could recommend that all citizens stay home, or recommend that all governors issue such an order, the president’s own authority to issue such an enforceable directive isn’t there . . . ‘The president could shut down airports and ports and the interstate system potentially and things like that,’ but the president has no general authority to restrict citizens as they go about their daily lives.”
He cannot force a “lock-down”, the same way he cannot force states to re-open. University Texas School of Law professor, Steve Vladeck, stated “the president has no formal legal authority to categorically override local or state shelter-in-place orders or to reopen schools and small businesses. No statue delegates to him such power; no constitutional provision invests him with such authority. The president can *informally* put pressure on local/state governments. He can mess with emergency funding, and he can even order the federal workforce back to their offices. But largely because he’s left so much to local authorities so far, this, too, is ultimately up to them”
University of Texas School of Law associate dean for Academic Affairs, Robert Chesney, stated “the federal government cannot commandeer the machinery of the state governments. . . . That is, the federal government cannot coerce the states into taking actions to suit federal policy preference.”
States also have complete control over how they reopen. Ohio for example, is slowly opening more and more businesses in an effort to keep the curve as flat as possible, whereas the state of Florida has already re-opened restaurants (at 25% capacity), gyms, shopping malls, and barber shops. Governor Ron DeSantis hopes that Florida will soon be ready for phase two, which allows restaurants to hold 75% capacity, beaches reopened with no social distancing guidelines, and many more.
The communication, or lack thereof, has caused a contentious relationship between the state and federal governments. Governors are conflicted, some governors feel as if the federal government is not properly handling the pandemic, especially due to President Trump’s desire to withhold funding from states such as Nevada and Michigan after their announcement regarding mail-in-voting. Whereas other state governors believe the federal government is doing their required job.