Most states give their governors extraordinary powers in an emergency to protect the public’s health and safety when there is no time for legislative action. These emergency powers may be crucial in uncertain times, including pandemics, but their use must be time-limited and respectful of constitutional rights.

Unlimited, dictatorial rule cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.

PLF is working with legislatures and in courtrooms across the country to place safeguards on emergency powers and restore constitutional government.


PLF is working with legislatures and in courtrooms across the country to place safeguards on emergency powers and restore constitutional government.

State Emergency Powers Statutes

Read more on PLF’s Recommendations for Principled Reform

January 3, 2024

Dr. Drew interviews PLF's Joe Luppino-Esposito

Dr. Drew talks to Joe Luppino-Esposito, the deputy legal policy director at Pacific Legal Foundation and discusses how executive orders and emergency powers enable unelected government agencies to byp…

May 24, 2023

Reason: The Perils of 'Rule by Indefinite Emergency Edict'

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch highlights a vital lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic.

November 23, 2022 | By WILL YEATMAN

The Detroit News: Supreme Court must curb president’s expansive power

Arbitrary government has no place in our constitutional order. Yet many of today’s most significant federal policies reflect blatant abuses of presidential discretion.

June 20, 2022 | By DANIEL ORTNER

The Hill: Rein in the governors

If we’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that emergency power is easily abused. During the COVID-19 pandemic, governors across the country claimed unprecedented power to combat the vi…

March 18, 2022 | By LUKE WAKE

The Hill: After two long years, it’s past time to end Newsom’s emergency powers

In March 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing him to issue lockdown orders and close businesses however he saw…

January 27, 2022


In Prohibition, this short documentary film from the Pacific Legal Foundation, Goodwood Brewing Company CEO Ted Mitzlaff and others explain how small businesses have been destroyed by governors’ con…

January 18, 2022 | By JESSICA THOMPSON

Carolina Journal: Why we’re still fighting Gov. Cooper

Crystal Waldron and Club 519 were shuttered for almost a year due to economic favoritism. She suffered through six months of discriminatory treatment — watching former customers have drinks at her d…

January 18, 2022 | By DANIEL ORTNER

Issues & Insights: Cuomo’s many abuses show why the separation of powers matter

During the COVID-19 pandemic, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was breathlessly heralded as “the politician of the moment” and the “authoritative voice in the crisis.” His press briefings…

January 10, 2022 | By TODD GAZIANO

The Hill: Congressional action shows OSHA vaccine mandate is a bald-faced power grab

Presidents of both parties wrongly have expanded the unilateral executive policy playbook, but President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are still teaching a master class in unaccounta…

November 26, 2021 | By JESSICA THOMPSON

Carolina Journal: Emergency powers reforms are a big win for North Carolinians

Last week, the North Carolina General Assembly passed, and Gov. Roy Cooper signed, a budget bill that was striking for several reasons, including amendments to the Emergency Management Act (EMA) that …

September 14, 2022 | By DANIEL DEW

Distilleries heroically stepped up during COVID. The FDA punished them.

DECEMBER 30, 2020, afternoon Most people were packing up their offices. It was nearly New Year’s Eve of an election year at the Health and Human Services (HHS) offices in Washington, DC. Regardless of the skullduggery that goes on there, DC is beautiful around the holidays. Congress is out, so the streets and sideways are …

August 03, 2022 | By BRITTANY HUNTER

How much government power is too much in the post-pandemic world?

Unmasked and open for business, the world is increasingly prepared to move on from the pandemic. But our world certainly has not returned to normal.   Our reality is, unfortunately, still defined by constant crisis: viruses, shocking violence, rampant inflation, and war.   Government response to these crises hasn’t deviated much from the COVID …

July 26, 2022 | By NICOLE W.C. YEATMAN

A Wisconsin ballet ends with a court discussion of nondelegation

There is a legal reckoning on the horizon.   At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local governments delegated an extraordinary amount of power to unelected public health officials.   Now, two and a half years into the pandemic, the public is still grappling with the consequences of this unprecedented transfer of power from elected …

June 22, 2022 | By JESSICA THOMPSON

Club 519’s legal fight is over. Now they’re celebrating.

The pandemic was hard on all small businesses in North Carolina, but perhaps most of all on “private bars”—an antiquated classification of bars in North Carolina from the prohibition era. An establishment is considered a private bar if it makes 75% or more of its profit from alcohol sales. When Rob and Crystal Waldron reached …

September 17, 2021 | By JAMES BURLING

The crisis exception to the Constitution?

When a great crisis visits the nation, the niceties of constitutionally protected rights must take a holiday. Only later, once the crisis has resolved, can we go about deciding which rights should be fully restored, and which rights should be modified to meet the new circumstances of a post-crisis world. Rights, after all, must give …

September 14, 2021 | By DANIEL WOISLAW

ADU reform: what good is a law if it’s not enforced?

The California legislature has passed revolutionary legislation in the past few years that makes it easier for residents to build additional housing in the form of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), more recognizable to some as granny flats, basement apartments, or small backyard cottages. These new reforms, which remove costly and complicated barrie …

July 27, 2021 | By STEVEN D. ANDERSON

As pandemic subsides, why are governors still exercising “emergency powers”?

As the COVID-19 pandemic gradually recedes from the highs we saw in 2020, we should carefully reflect on what the past 15 months of a public health emergency have taught us. As a longtime advocate for individual liberty and limited government, here’s the principal lesson I take from our pandemic experience: The separation of governmental …

June 17, 2021 | By KYLE GRIESINGER

The death knell: How Kentucky’s governor’s abuse of executive power threw Goodwood Brewing in a tailspin

Located in downtown Louisville, Goodwood Brewing Company is one of the largest breweries in Kentucky. In 2019, it produced some 10,000 barrels (248,000 pints) of beer for sale in its taprooms and for distribution to 16 states. In March of 2020, the state forced Goodwood Brewery to close its doors for on-site consumption when the …

June 02, 2021 | By DANIEL DEW

As the world opens back up, emergency powers reform still matters

As the country continues to re-open after more than a year of living under COVID emergency orders, it may be tempting to ignore further calls to restrict executive overreach. But we must be vigilant in upholding our system of checks and balances before the next national crisis comes our way. Many will chalk up the …

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