SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A state of emergency declaration enacted by Utah Governor Gary Herbert in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will expire Thursday.
According to a statement released Wednesday, Brad Wilson, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, said the Legislature will not consider extending the declaration.
“Our system of checks and balances is designed to ensure limits and definition on the powers and the role of each branch of government,” said Utah Speaker of the House Brad Wilson. “While emergency powers are rightfully granted to the executive branch, they have historically been for limited to short periods of time, typically to address natural disasters. These powers were never contemplated to span months or longer.
Herbert declared the state of emergency in March amid the growing concern of a COVID-19 outbreak in the state and around the country. At the time, Utah public health officials had announced its first confirmed case of the virus. Now the state has reported tens of thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths due to the virus.
Wilson said the legislative branch is responsible for enabling the executive branch to act decisively in an emergency and for ensuring the balance of power remains intact. He indicated there are ongoing discussions with the Governor’s Office about the “appropriate use of emergency powers” and plans to evaluate this policy in the coming months.
The Legislature will convene for a special session Thursday to discuss adjustments to the state budget and policies related to the ongoing pandemic.