The Mississippi Legislative PEER Committee is releasing its report titled A Legal Analysis of Mississippi’s Emergency Powers Statutes and Actions Taken During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Some of the Committee’s major findings include:
- In its Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts decision, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that when addressing emergencies, a state can adopt regulations to protect the many in the face of a threat, even if the regulations impair personal liberty, unless the governmental action is unreasonable or palpably impairs a constitutionally protected right.
- In its Hawkins v. Hoye decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld as reasonable a legislative delegation of the state’s police powers to a local government to regulate health conditions.
- Model state health emergency powers laws promulgated by two groups define the criteria or attributes that states should consider when enacting such laws, but the groups’ model laws have been met with considerable criticism.
- While Mississippi has not adopted the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, Mississippi’s current emergency powers laws address most subjects contained in the model act.
The Governor’s executive orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of which appear to exceed the scope of the Governor’s emergency powers conferred by law, were generally directed toward the protection of Mississippi citizens. However, current state emergency management laws on which the orders were based lacked formal provisions for the Legislature to have oversight of policy for long-term emergencies.
Executive orders issued by the mayors of the City of Jackson, the City of Holly Springs, and the City of Greenville to address the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to abridge the fundamental freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Mississippi Constitution.
The complete Mississippi Legislative PEER Committee report is attached below.