SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — While California will end most of its coronavirus restrictions on June 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he will not lift the statewide “state of emergency” that gives him broad powers to either suspend or declare new rules and regulations.
California has been under a state of emergency since March 4, 2020. Since then, Newsom has authorized billions of dollars in emergency spending and issued at least 47 executive orders to alter or suspend 200 state laws and regulations because of the virus, according to a resolution authored by Republican state senators.
Newsom says most of the state’s virus restrictions will end on June 15. But Newsom said that doesn’t mean he will lift the “state of emergency” on that date.
“We’re still in a state of emergency. This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished, it’s not taking the summer months off,” Newsom said during a news conference to draw the names of 15 vaccinated people to win $50,000.
However, the governor’s press office retweeted a Sacramento Bee article after Newsom’s press conference, calling the headline “misleading.” The article’s headline reads, “California’s COVID state of emergency won’t end on June 15, Gavin Newsom says.”
“California is reopening June 15th. Get vaccinated, get ready, end of the tunnel is right around the corner,” Newsom’s press office said in its tweet.
Newsom can end the state of emergency himself. The state Legislature can also end it by passing a concurrent resolution. Republicans in the state Senate, led by state Sen. Melissa Melendez, have tried repeatedly to force a vote on a resolution to end the emergency. But Democrats, who have a majority of seats, have always blocked it.
“If Newsom believes the state is safe enough to reopen, then it’s safe for people to be able to make decisions for themselves without his arbitrary and capricious rules,” Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk said. “I believe it is time for him to hang up his crown and restore our democracy.”
California has been slower than other states to end its coronavirus rules. Newsom is likely to face a recall election later this year — an effort driven by anger over his handling of the pandemic.
Some opponents, including Anne Dunsmore with Rescue California, called the move a play to hold onto additional powers Newsom gained during the pandemic.
“He is the gift that keeps on giving to this campaign,” she said.
Dunsmore thinks Newsom might not lift as many restrictions as many people expect. She also worries he might keep his emergency powers through the special election.
“I don’t think that is a good look,” she said.
“This is not about some power grab,” said Democratic strategist Ed Emerson. “He is going to need those sorts of powers too if there is a variant that comes in, a variant of the COVID disease that comes in, that is not reacting to the vaccine, what happens then?”
Since the recall effort gained steam, Newsom and the Legislature have authorized $2.3 billion in cash payments for low-income adults, with plans to give another $8.1 billion in rebates to most taxpaying adults later this year. And he has pledged to give out more than $100 million in incentives for people to get vaccinated.
Friday, Newsom answered criticism that those decisions were driven by an desire to build goodwill among voters and avoid an early exit from office.
“Every single decision I have made is consistent with the work I’ve done for decades and what I campaigned on,” Newsom said.
The state of emergency declaration allows California to be reimbursed by the federal government for many of its pandemic-related expenses. Emerson also said it gives Newsom authority to suspend state laws.