Report: Sisolak’s emergency powers lack legal authority

Governor Sisolak is misleading the public by claiming that his ongoing emergency powers are authorized by state law, according to a new report published today by the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

One example includes the Governor’s false claim in Executive Order #35 that NRS 414.060 grants him the power to direct and control the movement of the general public. The actual text of the statute grants no such power to the Governor, but instead merely states that the Governor may cooperate with federal or state officials on emergency management issues affecting both the state and nation.

“A statute that merely authorized the Governor to cooperate with other state and federal government agencies during an emergency does not permit Governor Sisolak to control the conduct of private citizens in their own homes,” Nevada Policy Vice President Robert Fellner said.

When read in their full context, it is clear that the Emergency Powers statutes are confined to those emergencies in which immediate action is required, such as military attacks from a foreign entity, natural disasters, and so forth.

“Needing to cooperate with the President or neighboring states about how to direct traffic and the movement of the general public makes sense during the kinds of emergencies contemplated by the Act, such as a missile attack or catastrophic natural disaster of some sort,” Fellner said.

The Governor is simply wrong when he claims that this statute provides him with the authority to control the conduct of private citizens in their own home, according to Fellner.

“As the recipient of these emergency powers, it is unsurprising that Governor Sisolak has adopted the position that the Act provides him with a seemingly unlimited range of powers for an indefinite duration, based merely on his say-so,” Fellner said.

“While a close review of the text and legislative history of the Act reveals this to be an utterly absurd claim, the Nevada Constitution forecloses the concept entirely.

“The framers of the Nevada Constitution were acutely aware of the folly of trusting government officials to restrain themselves, which is why they created a system of divided Government, and expressly forbid any one person or body from possessing the power to both write and execute the law,” Fellner added.

Consequently, even if the Legislature wanted to transfer the lawmaking power to the Governor, it is simply “powerless” to do so — a fact recognized in binding Nevada Supreme Court precedent.

Restoring the rule of law and Nevada’s representative, constitutional form of government is something that all Nevadans, regardless of political ideology, should support.

“If you would be uncomfortable with your least-favorite politician wielding an expanded form of these powers in a much broader range of situations,” Fellner said, “you should be worried about the dangerous precedent being set by normalizing Governor Sisolak’s blatantly unconstitutional behavior.”

“Rather than forcing Nevada citizens to engage in the extremely costly and time-consuming nature of litigation,” Fellner continued, “the Legislature should act immediately to restore the rule of law and make it clear that Nevadans live under a representative system of government, rather than one-man rule.”

The report contains recommendations for strengthening and clarifying the existing statutes to make it harder for future administrations to similarly engage in unconstitutional overreach, such as (1) adding a definition for what constitutes an emergency, (2) imposing a time limit on any declared emergency, and (3) requiring the Legislature’s approval for extending the duration of an emergency.

Assembly Bill 93 and Senate Bill 88 are both appropriate vehicles for implementing these changes.

The full report can be accessed by clicking here.



Media Inquiries

Media inquiries related to this report should be directed to:
Nevada Policy Vice President Robert Fellner.