Ray of Hope in Virginia Senate

by Kerry Dougherty

It’s not much. But it’s something. An anemic attempt to rein in some of the unfettered emergency powers that are being exercised by Virginia officials.

I’m referring to the unanimous vote to pass SB5025 late last week by the Virginia Senate. This is one of the very few measures before the General Assembly that legitimately deserves debate during this special session. It deals with Virginia’s ongoing and seemingly endless state of emergency.

The bill would curb the power of Virginia’s Health commissioner, Dr. Norman D. Oliver.

You know, the unelected official who refused to release details about Virginia’s nursing home carnage, by invoking a bizarre claim of privacy rights to conceal that information.

You know, the man who scared the bejaysus out of all of us in April when he speculated that the oppressive Phase One of Virginia’s reopening would last “at least two years.”

You know, the health chief who recently said that when a Covid-19 vaccine became available he’d make it mandatory.

Explained The Virginia Mercury:

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, would limit the duration of executive orders from the health commissioner to 30 days unless the state’s Board of Health voted to extend them. The bill also limits emergency decisions made by the board itself to 30 days, though members can reconvene to re-extend the policies for another month.”

No emergency order could be extended for longer than 18 months unless the board adopted a more permanent regulation through the state’s formal administrative process.

How do I know this bill is a good one? Did I mention it passed unanimously? Plus, the governor, who seized power by declaring a state of emergency in mid-March and has extended it over and over, opposes the measure.

No point in celebrating, though. The bill will almost certainly die in the House of Delegates, where the majority supports unfettered centralized power in Richmond almost as much as it wants to hamstring the police.

If lawmakers in both houses were doing their jobs they’d all be in Richmond right now, curbing the governor’s executive powers. Unfortunately, bills to do that died early in this August special session.

The only way to end the governor’s often arbitrary edicts is through the courts. That has worked in other places. For instance, Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order was struck down in May by that state’s supreme court. Yesterday, a federal court ruled that many of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency orders were unconstitutional.

Read the opening salvo in the court’s opinion. It contains a warning for all of us.

In an emergency even a vigilant public may let down its guard over its constitutional liberties only to find that liberties, once relinquished , are hard to recoup and that restrictions … may persist long after immediate danger has passed.


Jon Tigges, the owner of Zion Springs vineyard and wedding venue in Loudoun County was unsuccessful in seeking an injunction against Northam’s restrictions on businesses earlier this summer. Yesterday, he announced that “buoyed” by the Pennsylvania ruling, he and six other plaintiffs will head to court today seeking a similar ruling for Virginia.

This column was republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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25 responses to “Ray of Hope in Virginia Senate

  1. Some bills, both sides know, are doomed to die and so it’s an easy vote the opposite of your real position so you can tell your voters you supported the concept.

    works like a charm!

    I bet Steve knows more how it works!


    • Voice votes? Like in the Wisconsin house, “All in favor?” “Aye.” “Opposed?” “NAY!!” “Okay, the Ayes have it.”

      • Speaker Filler-Corn is calling the outcome of voice votes on Zoom, having heard probably five members respond…..Just hilarious. Democracy dies on Digital.

        • “Just hilarious.” It all is Boss, it all is.

          Levity is, without doubt, the most powerful of the mental self-defense mechanisms. I urge all to use it.

          “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

  2. State Senator Chap Peterson, a Democrat, was the lead attorney in a suit against the Governor for his excesses. So this is not an entirely partisan issue, nor should it be.

    The House will get a chance to vote, and may indeed support the Health Commissioner, but he has by his conduct and incompetence richly earned the public rebuke the Senate unanimously gave him.

    Unlike many political figures, he seems capable of embarrassment, and this is embarrassing.

  3. Much ado over nothing. Purely a symbolic vote because all who work for the Governor, even if they have separate authority – it’s in reality subordinate to the Governor who can replace them if they refuse to obey their boss.

    Chap is running for something… we’ll find out soon… 😉

    • No way in hell the Democrats would nominate him for a statewide or federal job. If he runs as an R or Independent, I’ll write the check immediately.

      • He’s a liberal in sheeps clothing….. for sure… but your money would be welcome, I’m sure! He’ll be voting with the Dems on issues that count!


      • He’s a rational, pro-business Democrat, a type that was once common in Virginia and now rare. He saw through Dominion while his peers had their snouts in the trough. Your constitutional rights are quite safe with him (but of course he can’t satisfy those who worship guns as Holy Implements.) Yep, I’m okay with Chap. You forget my reputation as a RINO…

        • Weren’t they called “Dixiecrats” then?

        • Oh I’m okay with Chap also and I support most Dems are especially if he is running against a GOP like Chase , etc. 😉

          Oh, and I’m well aware of your RINO status and sometimes your CINO status!

          No surprise you align with Peterson at all!

          My bet he is probably in favor of Medicaid and Healthcare as well, pro union, not anti-abortion…pro Pre-K education, etc.. but that’s a guess, I could be wrong.

          And I’d sure pick him over the likes of the current LTG, no contest.

  4. Maybe the stage is set for Chap to run…maybe not this time. But if the Dems screw things up bad enough. Speaking of Chap running, he does, I have run a few road races with him but he does not know me. He usually beats me by a few positions, but he has youth on me, so he should have some time.

  5. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Two Jennifer’s running as blue candidates for Governor. Both born in Petersburg. Who knew?

  6. Kerry fails to note that another federal judge in Pennsylvania earlier upheld the state’s business closure orders. When federal judges arrive at different rulings on similar issues, it will be up to the appeals courts. So, her and Mr. Tigges’ celebrations may be a bit premature.

    • Exactly. From the article she links to:

      “The Pittsburgh-based judge also found Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s stay-at-home and business closure orders to be unconstitutional. The ruling came two weeks after a federal judge in Philadelphia took the opposite stance in a case focused solely on business closure orders, setting the stage for the battle to continue at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.”

      • cannot imagine that any Gov cannot “constitutionally” issue stay at home orders for a variety of emergency conditions – like a curfew.

        but because of the politics of it – this is destined to go all the way to the SCOTUS where … I wonder – if they are going to write new law in terms of specifics of when and when not such orders can be issued and for how long. I doubt seriously the SCOTUS is going to say that Governors do not have that power at all – than any/all of it is “unconstitutional”.

        Once again – we find out that the Founding Fathers were not exactly as precise in their language as we would like – and now – the courts have to essentially decide who can write laws or not.

        • All the more reason to watch Wise King Ralph at 2 p.m. for our latest set of dictates, mandates and marching orders…..The General Assembly has now had its chance to assert its supremacy and it seems to be punting.

        • Actually, the Founders were VERY clear on which branch of the government has the power to make laws – the legislative.

          There is no executive power to make law included in the Constitution.

          • Ironically a previous suit in PA the courts ruled the legislature didn’t have the power to end the shutdown.

            Such a sad state of affairs we live in when people don’t seem to know what is contained in our founding documentation.

        • Well again – at the SCOTUS level – review of States specific policies on EOs would be with regard to whether they are wholly “Constitutional” or not – as opposed to how they specifically function in terms of what kinds of emergencies and for duration.

          Hard to fathom an argument that, for instance, they are “Constitutional” but only if they are 30 days or less and over that they are “unconstitutional”

    • Depends on which previous case you were referring. The case that the SCOTUS denied was regarding legislature ending the closures.

      Which sounds pretty messed up that the Governing body is at the will of the Governor.

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