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Saturday, January 30, 2021

HB 49

Passed unianimously by the State Board and sent by the State Chair to the sponsors and to the leadership in both chambers:
We are nearly a year into the Coronavirus Pandemic and there is as yet no end in sight. We have grown accustomed to what those in government and media are repeatedly calling the “new normal." Businesses remain closed or operate at reduced capacity. Restaurants provide single-use paper menus, break up large parties, and leave open tables between groups of guests. Most businesses require their customers to wear a mask to enter.

It is impossible to know how long these precautions will be warranted and difficult to know for sure if they’re even helping. What is not unknown is that the impetus for many of these changes in the State of Delaware can be ultimately laid at the feet of one man: Governor John Carney. The overbearing and invasive changes to our society were not the result of complex, voluntary interactions and negotiations among individuals, businesses, schools, and other institutions. They were not even the result of consultation with, nor of debate by, our representatives in the General Assembly who then, in their official capacity, updated the laws of our state to reflect the challenges of the times.

Instead, they have been carried out under the auspices of a “State of Emergency” declared unilaterally by our Governor. It is left to faith that he is doing so in consultation with public health experts and doctors, adequately balancing the tradeoffs between public safety and the economic necessities of survival in troubled times. Unfortunately, there is no accountability. There is no transparency. This concentrated power has bred an environment of distrust in an already divided nation and a divided state. Contrary to the exhortations to our better angels, we are not “all in this together.” Rather, we are dancing to the tune of a career politician many of us didn’t vote for and that many more voted for only begrudgingly as the least bad option.

This “new normal” cannot and should not mean that the norms of a democratic and participatory representative government are cast by the wayside along with our livelihoods, children's youth, family vacations, and ability to see the faces of our friends and neighbors while out in the community. The challenges we face may justify making difficult choices and limiting the possibilities of exposing vulnerable populations to this virus. But that is a decision we should all make together, at the very least through our elected representatives in the General Assembly, if not through the voluntary give and take of our everyday interactions.

Accordingly, a number of Representatives and Senators are sponsoring HB49 for the upcoming 151st Session of the Delaware General Assembly. This legislation would limit the ability of Delaware's Governor to extend a non-weather related State of Emergency beyond 30 days without input from the General Assembly, and therefore from the people they represent. Sadly, this bill is devoid of cosponsors from the Democratic members of the General Assembly and consigned to the House Administration Committee, where legislation disfavored by the House Democratic Leadership goes to die.

The Libertarian Party of Delaware acknowledges the realities of the political situation but hopes nevertheless that this bill will overcome the odds by receiving the committee hearing it is due and gaining enough support from our Representatives and Senators to become law. It is an unfortunate fact that this pandemic has become a political football for the dominant, dysfunctional codependency of our twisted two-party system. However, the single largest contributing factor to those circumstances must be acknowledged as the unilateral and unaccountable fashion in which the government response has been imposed.

Constraining the authority of any one politician to impose these restrictions on the population not only imposes accountability on that one politician, but also engenders buy-in from the legislative branch of our state government and by extension the diverse populations of our state and communities. We do not speak out in favor of HB49 because we discount the importance of protecting our health care workers and vulnerable populations from the ravages of this pandemic, but because in order for us to truly be “in this together,” we must all work in concert to develop the solutions needed to address it rather than be simply told what we must do, under penalty of law, by one man, sitting atop the executive branch of our state government.

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