O Happy Day!  Governor Declares End To Winter Storm Emergency

As California began the new year, it was suffering from a six-year drought.  Then came le deluge.  According to the Governor's office "These storms brought more rain than had been recorded in over 100 years and all in one winter season".   On March 1, the Governor declared a state of emergency. 

If you don't remember these events, it may be because they occurred seven years ago - in 2017.  However, the state of emergency did not end until last week when Governor Gavin Newsom finally signed a proclamation ending 22 outstanding states of emergency, including the 2017 winter storm emergency declaration.   How can it be that a flood emergency has lasted more than seven years?  In comparison, the waters in the biblical flood subsided after a mere 150 days.  Genesis 8:3.  

The End of Gubernatorial Personal Rule?

California's Emergency Services Act bestows certain extraordinary powers on the Governor.  In Newsom v. Superior Court, 63 Cal.App.5th 1099 (2021), the Fifth District Court of Appeal held that the ESA did not prohibit Governor Newsom from exercising quasi-legislative authority during the Covid-19 emergency.  The Court's holding in effect sanctioned gubernatorial personal rule.

A state of emergency under the ESA is not supposed to continue indefinitely.  In fact, the ESA requires that a state of emergency be terminated at the earliest possible date: 

The Governor shall proclaim the termination of a state of emergency at the earliest possible date that conditions warrant. All of the powers granted the Governor by this chapter with respect to a state of emergency shall terminate when the state of emergency has been terminated by proclamation of the Governor or by concurrent resolution of the Legislature declaring it at an end.

Cal. Gov't Code § 8629.  See When Will California's State Of Emergency End?  One questions whether conditions have only recently warranted the termination of a winter storm emergency that was declared seven years ago.

In a recent decision upholding the Governor's quasi-legislative powers under the ESA, the Fifth District Court of Appeal leaned heavily on Section 8629 as a "significant safeguard".  Ghost Golf, Inc. v. Newsom, 102 Cal. App. 5th 88, 105, 321 Cal. Rptr. 3d 203, 214 (2024).  The failure of the Legislature and, until now, of the Governor to terminate states of emergency that unquestionably ended long ago mocks the Court's characterization of Section 8629 as a safeguard.