Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock.
Updated Aug 13, 12:15 PM

It was so easy to predict that I can claim no special prescience. I wrote a week ago:

“The Governor’s 15-month emergency powers expired June 30, and, God, does he miss them…. (H)ow long (will the) governor put up with the lack of emergency powers?”

If you guessed a week, you win.

Today’s headline: Virginia Gov. Orders Mask Mandate for State’s K-12 Schools

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced a public health emergency order to require masks in all indoor settings for the state’s K-12 schools.

The Governor has a legal basis for the order, § 32.1-13 of the Code of Virginia. The State Health Commissioner, acting for the Board of Health when it is not in session (§ 32.1-20 of the Code of Virginia),

may make separate orders and regulations to meet any emergency, not provided for by general regulations, for the purpose of suppressing nuisances dangerous to the public health and communicable, contagious and infectious diseases and other dangers to the public life and health.

If you are wondering, the Board of Health meets four times a year for a couple of days each meeting. And there is no mention of a role for the General Assembly.

This is not the same law that Northam used for 15 months. New ball game.

What’s next?

The language of the law makes it open season on anything to which the Health Commissioner, a gubernatorial appointee, may object. What other “nuisances dangerous to the public health” can we look forward to as the subjects of such orders?

  • Racism. SeeRichmond Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis” on the Virginia Department of Health website.
  • Capitalism. SeeWe Must Take Advantage of This Pandemic to Make a Radical Social Change: The Coronavirus as a Global Health, Inequality, and Eco-Social Problem” on a National Institutes of Health website.

“the origins and effects underlying this pandemic are likely to be found in the development of neoliberal capitalism and its inherent logic of ceaseless accumulation, economic growth, large inequalities, and ecological devastation”.

  • Social-Emotional Learning. “Virginia defines social emotional learning as:

“The process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

I’m going to stop there. You can make your own list.

Code of Virginia § 32.1-13 makes the General Assembly superfluous on any number of issues. Northam has done this without invoking Chapter 3.2. Emergency Services and Disaster Law » § 44-146.17. Powers and duties of Governor for

Promotion and coordination of state and local emergency services activities relating to the safety and welfare of the Commonwealth in time of disasters.”

So, no disaster declared. No activation of the state Emergency Operations Plan. No exemption from the provisions of the Virginia Public Procurement Act. Just a ”nuisance to the public health.”

No muss, no fuss, no time limits and utterly subjective. Nirvana for progressives.

My many friends on the left will see this as the natural evolution of government into a autocracy in which a chief executive bypasses the messy process of representative government to take actions directly “for the common good,”

That is likely what is taught at our public universities these days — the utter urgency of the revolution and never let a crisis go to waste.

They mean those autocratic powers, however, only to be used by progressives. We’ll see. I hate the very concept of autocrats of either party, but the floodgates are now officially open.

Sauce for the goose.

The Virginia laws on disaster declaration and, separately, the issuance of an order to “suppress nuisances dangerous to the public health” are too broadly written not to require the calling of an emergency session to validate them within a couple of weeks.


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9 responses to “Return to Autocracy in Virginia”

  1. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    It is all about politics, the upcoming election, and votes, votes and more votes.

  2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “I’m going to stop there. You can make your own list.”

    Oh no! I could never be so inventive. It takes a uniquely creative mind…

  3. I’m going to stop there. You can make your own list.

    I’ve got one, an obvious one, in fact. This is from the CDC web-site: “Firearm violence is a serious public health problem in the United States that impacts the health and safety of Americans.”

    1. And there’s racism as a health issue. See the CDC at
      https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/racism-disparities/index.html And don’t forget about the CDC declaring a moratorium on evictions, a matter far beyond anything connected to the CDC’s statutory authority.

      The left seems to be trying to declare various matters as public health crises to remove them from the realm of politics and place them under the authority of people who may be qualified as experts in matters of medicine or health care but are NOT qualified by training or expertise as experts in ethics, morality, law, social values, and self-government.

      The left seems to be trying to adapt the idea of scientism, fill it with left-wing ideology, and use it to impose nondemocratic rule by politically correct experts who will invoke their expertise to override any decisions by Americans that are not deemed politically correct.

    2. “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” So the saying goes; and if this is common knowledge, common wisdom, I guess that means it’s common law also, so the Guv. can mandate that we go to bed by 9 pm and get up by 6 am as a health measure. I think I’ll go to the pub now and tell them to get ready to close early.

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    That’s the perfect picture of the man long known as Coonman. Smug and stupid all at once.

  5. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    But he didn’t declare another broad state of emergency, which is what you actually predicted. Agree or disagree, this is something within the lawful authority of the health department (could they not act to stop a typhus outbreak?) and the other examples you cite are clearly not and would be subject to court challenge.

    This is the Republican Party committing suicide again. Wish it wasn’t true, but it is. They’ve let the Democrats pick the issue to fight about in September and October and they picked one where the swing voters (and quite a few Republicans) will agree with the Governor. Then he has the added defense of SB 1303.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      A distinction, not a difference, Steve. I predicted that he would miss his emergency powers. Different law, same result. Autocratic rule.

      A few points:
      1. You repeat something that I wrote “ the governor has a legal basis for the order”. So we agree.
      2. So I have not suggested that the Executive Department could not act to stop a typhus outbreak. Read my piece again.
      3. Tell me why the Virginia law that I cite does not permit action in the three cases about which I ask the question? If social emotional learning is unconstitutional, then why do we have a law promoting it? If racism cannot be declared a public health crisis you should inform the City of Richmond. Capitalism, as I demonstrated, is being cited as a public health crisis.

      You predict “court challenge”, but not court victory in those cases.

      The definition of “nuisances dangerous to the public health” are left to the discretion of the Board of Health (8 days a year) and the Health Commissioner.

      How can he and his boss the governor overstep that law unless he violates the Constitution?

      The Virginia laws on disaster declaration and the issuance of an order to “suppress nuisances dangerous to the public health” are too broadly written not to require the calling of an emergency session to validate them within a couple of weeks.


  6. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    When His Excellency made this announcement I swore it sounded just like this:

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