The New York legislature is poised to hand massive power to the governor

UPDATE: The bill's sponsor has pulled it thanks to the negative press the bill received.

Of course, all that the bill's critics did was point to the bill's contents and then pair them with what could be expected under the bill if New York's politicians and bureaucrats continued to behave as they have done to date, only with legislatively augmented superpowers.


In roughly three weeks, the New York state legislature will vote on Bill A416, which will give the New York governor (in this case, the power-mad Kathy Hochul), as well as the governor’s delegates (i.e., New York’s administrative state) the power to indefinitely detain anyone the governor or her agencies deem a “significant threat to public health.” Despite the broad power states have, this violates the Constitution. At a practical level, it should scare the pants off every American.

There is absolutely no doubt that, under our Constitution, the states have powers that the federal government lacks. The federal government is explicitly a creature of very limited powers, while the Tenth Amendment makes it clear that those limited powers not reserved to the federal government belong to the state “or to the people.”

The Tenth Amendment, however, does not mean that states can play the dictator. Indeed, since the Civil War, states have been subject to the same constraints as the federal government when it comes to using its police power over the people within its borders. Thus, the second sentence in the Fourteenth Amendment states explicitly that

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Among the privileges Americans have is a pivotal one in the Fifth Amendment assuring us that “No person deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law....” That deprivation is precisely what New York state contemplates.

A416 grants the government huge powers “in the event the governor declares a state of health emergency due to an epidemic of any communicable disease.” Please note that New York has been in a constant state of panic for almost two years now over a disease that (a) has settled into an average mortality rate hovering around 1% and (b) caused Katy Hochul to declare a state of emergency because of Omicron, a variant that apparently has a mortality rate that’s vanishingly close to zero.

Image: The legislature is poised to give Gov. Hochul the same power Franklin Roosevelt illegally used to intern American citizens of Japanese descent during WWII. YouTube screen grab.

Under the proposed bill, once the governor declares an emergency (perhaps something she’ll do next time for the cold or for a bad allergy season), the government can then decide that, if someone is even suspected of having been in contact with a “contagious disease that, in the opinion of the governor, after consultation with the Commissioner [of Health], may pose an imminent and significant threat to the public health resulting in severe morbidity or high mortality,” the governor has the power to “order the removal and/or detention of such a person or of a group of such persons” with just a single order (reasonably specific) to detain people “in a medical facility or other appropriate facility or premises....”

In plain language, if the New York government doesn’t like you, it can declare that you might possibly, maybe, be sick and it can arrest you and shut you up in a medical concentration camp.

The Democrats will, of course, defend the bill by pointing to that language about “severe morbidity or high mortality.” Let me repeat, though, that Hochul declared a state of emergency for a variant that makes people tired and gives them a sore throat. Moreover, it’s a variant from which no one has yet died (although one person seems to have died from something else while diagnosed with the Omicron variant).

No matter the language in the bill, given that the New York governor has the uncontested power to declare a health emergency, people are at risk. If you’re wondering what that looks like, look to Victoria, in Australia. There, people are locked up in concentration camps for the mere suspicion of having COVID.

And again, it cannot be said often enough that this is a disease with an average mortality rate hovering around 1% (a rate that could be even lower if people were allowed treatment with Ivermectin or Hydroxychloroquine early in their diagnosis). By way of contrast, this is not AIDS, which entered the West with a 100% mortality rate but never resulted in such a draconian response.

Despite the New York capitol being in Albany, the political weight of New York exists in New York City, which historically drags the state left. However, with the legislature making it possible for the governor to have untrammeled power (and arguably unconstitutional power although I wouldn’t trust courts to reach that conclusion), voters throughout the state need to give their legislators an earful of very loud cries of “No.” Otherwise, before they know it, New Yorkers may find themselves living in a police state from which there is no escape.

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