Justice cleans up executive orders
CHARLESTON — After 12 months of dozens of executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday he would issue a new executive order canceling outdated executive orders and providing clarity as the pandemic continues.
“It can be confusing for the public to keep track of all the different orders, so today I’m signing a new executive order that’s cleaning up and doing away with a great many of the executive orders that have been in place,” Justice said during his Monday COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol.
Justice said the new executive order will be signed Monday and made available on governor.wv.gov. Since the beginning of March 2020, Justice signed 91 executive orders dealing with different aspects of the pandemic, including executive orders last Spring that ordered residents to stay at home and close all non-essential businesses.
“These orders were absolutely necessary to keep our people safe, to keep our businesses afloat, and to keep us on the right track to beat this virus,” Justice said. “We have led the nation over and over.”
The executive orders that will remain in effect included suspensions of various regulations, including medical care and business licensing; requirements for health care facilities and providers to remain vigilant with plans for surge capacity and personal protective equipment; and indoor face mask requirements. Justice said he would also reinstate some requirements for unemployment benefits starting in June.
“We need to put these requirements back to get people back to work,” Justice said.
However, executive orders placing limits on outdoor gatherings will be removed. Justice increased outdoor gathering capacity from no more than 75 people to a maximum of 100 people by executive order last month. During the worst of the pandemic, that limit was lowered to 25 people.
“There was a lot of stuff that was valuable when we put it in, but it has now lived its time and it’s time to move forward,” Justice said. “We had a lot of things that were in place that we can now go back and eradicate.”
Justice said his decision to eliminate and consolidate executive orders was due to an attempt by the West Virginia Legislature to put a time limit on the current pandemic state of emergency that’s been in place since March 16, 2020.
The House of Delegates adopted House Concurrent Resolution 104 in a 76-24 vote, which would have ended the pandemic state of emergency on May 17 and rescinded several of the Governor’s executive orders. The Senate declined to take up HCR 104 before the end of the 2021 legislative session on April 10. State code allows the Legislature to cancel states of emergency by both the House and state Senate adopting a concurrent resolution.
“Many of these things the Legislature tried to address in the session, but the long and the short of it is this (executive order) cleans everything up,” Justice said.