On Emergency Powers

There has been a bit of controversey over my statement on the picture of a police officer in Iowa holding a man at gunpoint who attempted to push his way through a police blockade with his vehicle.  I should note that I was merely pointing out that the officer in question was within the bounds of the law in his action.  Under Iowa’s emergency powers statutes, the Governor can order the police to enforce evacuation zones.  That might not be right, but that’s the law.  If you ever want the civil libertarian in you to go into convulsions, take a look at your state’s emergency powers provisions.  Pennsylvania’s is here.

State of emergency declarations have the effect of expanding the powers of the governor greatly.  Under Pennsylvania law, for instance, they state personnel are empowered to come on to your property and remove any debris that could be considered a threat to public health or safety, including, one would presume, the remains of your house.  Another provision can be found here:

§ 7308.  Laws suspended during emergency assignments.

In the case of a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor, Commonwealth agencies may implement their emergency assignments without regard to procedures required by other laws (except mandatory constitutional requirements) pertaining to the performance of public work, entering into contracts, incurring of obligations, employment of temporary workers, rental of equipment, purchase of supplies and materials and expenditures of public funds.

Pennsylvania’s emergency powers are rather limited compared to what I’ve seen in a lot of states.  There doesn’t seem to be any power to enforce evacuation zones, for instance, like there is in Iowa law. [UPDATE, there is, see in comments below] But the time to look at your state emergency powers provisions, and petition your government to make changes to it, is now.  Most of these laws have been in place for decades, and it’s easier to get them changed when there’s not a disaster than get them changed when there is.

I stand by my assertion that challenging that authority with the officers charged with enforcing the Governor’s edicts (and yes, under most emergency powers laws, the governor gets to make edicts) isn’t the way to go.  If you feel being kept from your property is a violation of your rights, there is a remedy for that through the courts.  My feeling is that restricting movement ought to be unconstitutional except in the most dire circumstances (like a pandemic).  But my opinion isn’t law, and making ones opinion law is usually an uphill battle if you can’t get a lot of your fellow citizens to agree with you.

5 thoughts on “On Emergency Powers”

  1. One thing that didn’t get reported, except in the gunblogs, is that one neighborhood group successfully stormed the checkpoint and drove off the JBTs, er…*ahem* officers.

    Courts may be the answer, but after the railroading that Olofson got over a malfunctioning semi-auto, and after Kelo vs New London, I don’t trust them much. And in 1775, if we hadn’t rebelled violently against the authorities of the time, we’d still be British subjects.

  2. 7301. General authority of Governor.
    (f) Additional powers.
    (5) Direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken
    or threatened area within this Commonwealth if this action is necessary for the preservation of
    life or other disaster mitigation, response or recovery.
    (7) Control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area, the movement of persons with
    in the area and the occupancy of premises therein.

  3. It all comes down to personal responsibility.

    When we decided to relinquish personal responsibility for our safety to the government, we also acceded control of our behavior to the same.

    The bottom line is that, had the guy gotten past the check point and gotten himself in trouble, it would have fallen to the very same officers to risk their lives to save his dumb ass.

    Nationalized health care is the same situation. How long do you think it will be between the time the government takes over responsibility for our health care and begins dictating what actions we may take that may affect the health that they are now responsible for?

    Not long I’d wager.

    “whatever power you give the State to do things FOR you carries with it the equivalent power to do things TO you.
    –Albert Jay Nock

  4. worst part here in NC is that in a declared disaster area, it is a crime to leave your property with a gun…

    now my question comes, what happens if my house is leveled by a tornadoes and my rifles are strewn across the yard… it appears that i could be arrested and convicted if i were trying to move my guns to a friends house or gun shop for secure storage…

  5. oh, and having just applied for my CCH today, i noticed that on the back of the form it lists criteria for loosing your CCH… one of those is violation of emergency ordinances… so im not allowed to legally take my guns with me, but if an evacuation is mandatory, im not allowed to ignore it to secure my guns…

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