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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Governors are seeing their pandemic-related broad reach and executive powers wane as the public health emergency subsides and the necessity for restrictions and emergency action ends.

Why it matters: Governors took on outsize roles from Maine to California as much of the burden fell to the states. In some, their powers are about to revert to the norm. In others, their expanded reach is triggering a re-examination of whether they should have such authority in the future.

  • In Texas, led by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, the state House and Senate have been deliberating laws that would move the needle away from the Executive Branch and toward the legislature in a future pandemic.
  • In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont’s expanded pandemic powers will be extended until mid-July.
  • The Democrat's ability to enforce the waning number of COVID-related executive orders was set to lapse on May 20, local media reported.

Between the lines: Emergency situations often test the limits of executive reach, regardless of political party. And it’s usually met with opposition from the other side of the aisle.

  • In the case of the pandemic, such sweeping executive powers allowed governors to close schools and businesses, apply mask mandates and issue stay-at-home orders.
  • The totality of the measures has sparked debates in the states about the reach of gubernatorial power.

In Pennsylvania, voters will decide today whether the governor should continue to have the same powers that have been executed this past year.

  • The vote effectively was a referendum on Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's pandemic response — but at the same time, it will shape the extent of the governors’ power for the future, a Pennsylvania paper notes.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, another Democrat, has faced significant backlash in the exercise of his gubernatorial power.

  • He is facing federal and state investigations, including one looking into his reporting of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.
  • Such revelations have sparked bipartisan ire and prompted legislators to introduce a series of resolutions to revoke his executive orders.
  • “The reality is we had this power to do this since Day One … when the governor was granted these unprecedented and unconstitutional executive powers,” New York state Sen. George Borrello, a Republican, said during a floor debate.

Of note: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, entered the pandemic with polls consistently showing him as the most popular governor in the country.

  • His reputation took hits as the state experienced troubles with its unemployment assistance computers and vaccine registration program.
  • He rebounded as the state went on to be one of the nation's leaders in vaccination delivery.
  • Baker announced this week he will end the pandemic state of emergency on June 15 — dissolving his sweeping emergency powers, Massachusetts Playbook author Lisa Kashinsky noted.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker

Illinois issues indoor mask mandate, orders vaccines for educators

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a statewide indoor mask mandate and vaccine requirements for state workers, including teachers and school staff.

Why it matters: The Democratic governor's latest restrictions come as COVID-19 cases across the state are on the upswing, largely driven by the Delta variant. "Unfortunately, we are running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds," Pritzker said at a news conference Thursday.

Aug 27, 2021 - Health

Supreme Court blocks Biden's COVID eviction ban

Activists hold a protest against evictions near City Hall on August 11, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt via Getty Images

The Supreme Court blocked President Biden's moratorium on evictions in a 6-3 ruling on Thursday.

Why it matters: Roughly 3.5 million people across the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, per Census Bureau data from mid-August.