State senators review governor’s emergency orders

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Governor Henry McMaster has received some backlash behind his response to COVID-19 and some of the executive orders that were put in place.

Now members of the Senate are reviewing the governor’s powers when it comes to a state of emergency.

The first order of business for members of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Wednesday was to review the state’s leading health agency, DHEC, which is currently operating under an interim director.

“Considering the situation that we are in, I think it is extremely important that we appoint a full time director as soon as possible,” said Senator Shane Massey.

Lawmakers are pushing for a permanent replacement to improve the agency’s pandemic operations and to help the define the department’s emergency powers.

“You believe that DHEC’s emergency powers must be triggered by the governor declaring a state of emergency? Yes,” asked Senator Massey of Marshall Taylor, the acting director of DHEC.

On the agenda were several bills relating to emergency orders in the state. In this case, as state of emergency orders relate to the current pandemic.

The bills outline when the governor can issue an emergency order and how long those orders can stay in place.

Senator Dick Harpootlian explained, “The governor’s authority expires every 15 days and they’ve been sort of jerry rigging that. And we need to look at every other state and how they do it because you don’t want an emergency act that expires every 15 days.”

The bills also outline what powers local governments have under the governor’s emergency orders.
Harpootlian continued, “This idea that we’re going to leave it up to local government hasn’t worked.

We do know in places where mask ordinances have been put in place the cases have dropped drastically. The science is not up for debate. The political response to it is.”

DHEC plans to have a new director to present to the General Assembly by January.

The subcommittee will continue to meet for the rest of the year, with the hopes of presenting clear proposals the next legislative session.

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