Assembly of Delegates Approves Resolution to Limit Executive Power

Governor Charlie Baker

HYANNIS – The Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates recently passed a resolution seeking to curb Governor Charlie Baker’s executive powers related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Resolution 20-04 was introduced by Orleans Delegate Christopher Kanaga and Dennis Delegate John Ohman in response to the restrictionse Baker has placed over the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Resolution says that citizens of Barnstable County have “been deprived of property and liberty without the consent either of the Legislature or themselves, and without compensation,” and that it is the responsibility of the Assembly to intervene.

“We support all of those most adversely affected by loss of their property and livelihood, including those in the restaurant, hotel, resort, retail, and service businesses. We appeal to our state legislative representatives to immediately act to reverse the unfettered power being exercised by the executive branch of our state government, and to limit in the future those powers in scope and duration,” the resolution states.

Proponents of the resolution said that the restrictions the governor imposed have led to economic turmoil for residents.

“When a politician stands up in Boston and says, ‘We’re in this together. We understand what you’re going through,’ it’s a moment when I say to myself that’s a lie and he must think we’re stupid because he’s getting his salary and his benefits while many people on the Cape have not had revenue for three months. Many can’t pay their mortgages. Many, including one of my favorite restaurants here in Orleans, will never open again,” said Kanaga.

“So to you in Boston, you are not in it with us, and I don’t think you do understand. You’re making rules that you have no intention of abiding by or experiencing the consequences of yourself.”

Kanaga also said that the executive orders have been unconstitutional as well.

“Article 10 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which says directly that without action of the people or their representatives you can’t make laws, and, obviously people in this room don’t need a civics lesson, but that is still the highest law in Massachusetts,” said Kanaga.

Kanaga said that it is important to check executive powers now to prevent future governors from making similar orders.

Ohman said that Cape Cod can take care of itself at a local level and does not need state intervention.

“I think it’s time that the governor turns over back to the local control. I think that we on the Cape have very good citizens. We are very good legislators. We are very good town officials that can handle what we’re doing right now in a safe manner,” said Ohman.

Those against the resolution, including Brewster Delegate Mary Chauffee, said the restrictions were within the authority of the Governor to declare.

“The governor’s authority comes from the Civil Defense Act passed by the state legislature in 1950,” said Chauffee.

“The law includes quite a number of specific powers, but it also does provide the governor with broad authority over persons and property from meeting a state of emergency.”

Chauffee also said that the 1905 Massachusetts case Jacobson v. Massachusetts lead to the court holding that an individual’s freedom may be subordinated to the power of the state for the common welfare.

According to Chauffee, the slowing of the spread of COVID-19 is a result of the governor’s orders on business restrictions and social distancing.

“The governor’s lawful orders have used those public health measures to stop the virus’s spread. That’s why we’re hearing about the good trends,” said Chauffee.

“The resolution before us also asserts that actions taken by Governor Baker to protect us are an abuse of power. Not So. Abuse of power means malfeasance in office, official misconduct, or the commission of an unlawful act done in an official capacity. The governor has acted within the authority granted to him under state law, so this assertion is wrong.”

According to Chauffee, a Suffolk University poll in May showed that 84 percent of respondents approved of Governor Baker’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The governor of the State of Massachusetts has acted within legal authority granted to him by the state legislature 70 years ago. His actions have reduced the spread of disease, loss of life and harmful impact on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Chauffee.

The resolution was adopted by the Assembly by a roll call vote of 66.47 percent voting yes, 15.15 percent voting “NO” and 18.38 percent voting absent.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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