SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Kelly Seyarto’s (R-Murrieta) legislation to add needed clarity to executive emergency powers and restore government transparency and accountability during state emergencies has been vetoed by the Governor.
AB 1687 provides that the Governor may only suspend a statute or regulation during a state of emergency in connection with the specific conditions of that emergency, to clarify the broad ambiguities of the Governor’s authorized powers and ensure that these powers are limited and focused.
Currently, the California Emergency Services Act (CESA) gives the governor broad authority to suspend any regulation or statute during a state of emergency. This includes the power to suspend or modify public health, safety, zoning, or intrastate transportation laws, ordinances, or regulations. While it is assumed that these emergency powers are authorized solely for immediate and specific crisis response, California law does not explicitly limit these powers.
California is one of only nine states that does not limit the Governor’s powers to emergency response. Nationally, more than 300 bills in 47 states have been proposed to refine a governor's power to declare and respond to an emergency, with 12 states enacting new laws to give legislators, the representatives of the people, more control over the duration of an official emergency declaration, oversight of federal emergency aid, and the ability to call the legislature into session in an emergency.
California has been under a state of emergency since March 2020, more than 900 days. Since then, the Governor has issued over 500 orders, modifying dozens of laws and regulations spanning most divisions of the California codes. While most of these executive actions have been rescinded, the effects on education, employment, and the economy are still extensive.
“I am not surprised by the Governor’s decision to veto this bill, but I am disappointed,” said Assemblymember Seyarto. “This was his opportunity to show Californians that he recognizes the power of his office and respects its limits. AB 1687 would have ensured the accountability and integrity of the use of executive emergency powers and safeguarded them from being misused as a politically expedient tool or as a substitute for the legislative or judicial review process.”
Before being vetoed, AB 1687 passed through both the Senate and Assembly with strong bipartisan support.