In a letter to Gov. Tate Reeves the Mississippi Freedom Caucus addresses emergency orders.
The health and safety of the people of Mississippi is of the highest priority, we applaud you for your tireless work and commitment to that goal. On March 4, 2020, you issued your first executive order addressing the COVID-19 issue and since that time you have issued more than twenty-five additional executive orders concerning this world-wide pandemic. During the early stages of this growing health crisis the people of Mississippi listened to advice from medical experts, they closed their businesses on your demand, postponed needed surgeries, and ceased visits with family members in assisted-living facilities.
Our citizens were told that it would take a little over two weeks to “flatten the curve” and life could continue as normal, but what we have experienced is very different. We now find ourselves more than six months from that first executive order with no end in sight. We know that you care deeply about the people of Mississippi and that you have undertaken each and every decision with painstaking care. Regardless, the fact remains that the effects of these orders have caused families across the state to take massive financial hits, and in many cases caused businesses to permanently close their doors. Family members have not seen each other in months, nor have they been able to care for their loved ones in assisted-living homes. Day after day, constituents fill our inboxes, flood our phone lines, and address us in person, begging for some sort of guidance on what they should do to keep their small businesses open, maintain their sanity, and try to maintain a semblance of regular life without fear of government penalty.
We ask you to end these executive orders. We ask that you continue to provide the citizens of Mississippi with guidance and information, but that you trust our citizens and our constitution.
We ask that you not only work to protect our citizens’ health but also protect their constitutionally protected rights. The right to own and manage a business, the right to gather in peaceful groups, the right to make their own healthcare decisions is essential to our way of life, our health, and our survival as a free nation and state. The continual issuance of executive orders with no foreseeable end in sight has created an atmosphere of distrust and frustration among the people of our state. Our freedoms and liberties have been limited for too long; the people are crying out for relief, they are demanding their constitutional rights no longer be infringed. As fellow Republicans and believers in freedom and liberty above all, we ask you to hear our citizens and voluntarily relinquish this authority and power back to the people.
You have issued each of your executive orders under the provisions allowed by law under Mississippi’s Emergency Management and Civil Defense code. This power, granted to the governor of our state, was written and certainly intended to address temporary disasters whose consequences had clear ends in sight regarding repairs of the physical and economic damage incurred. The law was not written, however, to address a disaster of the magnitude or crisis of the length COVID-19 has turned out to be. In fact, we do not believe that any prior Legislature could have possibly foreseen this specific set of circumstances.
For disasters such as these, our constitution gives the governor the power to call a special session of the Mississippi Legislature to determine ways to move forward. The length of this disaster makes it imperative that the executive branch not retain sole power to address the important and lasting issues facing the people of Mississippi. Through our painful conversations with constituents, it is abundantly clear to us that the Emergency Management and Civil Defense code must be reformed.
We have spoken with members of the Legislature and citizens about these needed reforms. One popular proposal is to allow for a time limit on gubernatorial disaster declarations—for example, if a major disaster affecting a large part of the state exceeds a certain number of days, the Legislature must be called into session to address further actions. Another is to prohibit state agencies from suspending or revoking business or professional licenses due to a disaster declaration. The ideas we have heard from our colleagues and constituents are too numerous to include in this letter, but we perceive that many believe that this is a priority issue for the legislature to discuss.
For the reasons mentioned above, we formally request that you place reform of the Emergency Management and Civil Defense code as top priority during the next regular session. Reforms such as these will allow all members of the Legislature to have a say and a vote for their district in a crisis of this magnitude, and for us to do our duty to guard against overreach and protect liberty for all.
Governor Reeves, even with all of the struggles and trials of the past few months, we know Mississippians are resilient and strong. Our people have overcome much throughout our history and we always emerge stronger and better. We can and will help our state make one of the biggest comebacks in the history of our nation and the world. But we must work—together—toward that day. So, we ask you, Governor Reeves: Please end the executive orders and help us reform the Mississippi Emergency Management and Civil Defense laws . It is the solution for which our constituents have been asking.