Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced this morning, April 8, that he intends to extend Georgia’s Public Health State of Emergency through May 13.
The original State of Emergency declaration was issued on March 14 and scheduled to expire on April 13. The Georgia legislature was scheduled to re-convene on April 15, two days following the originally expiration of the Order. There was no indication during this morning's announcement that Kemp is requesting a special legislative session regarding this extension.
The Emergency declaration was approved by the legislature with wording that allowed Kemp to unilaterally extend the State of Emergency. However, the General Assembly, by concurrent resolution, may terminate a state of emergency or disaster at any time.
“To ensure the health and well-being of Georgians, I will extend the public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020. This measure will allow us to continue to deploy resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our healthcare facilities. We deeply appreciate the hard work of Georgians who are sheltering in place, using social distancing, and helping us flatten the curve. We are in this fight together,” Kemp said.
With the extension of the order, the Governor and state health officials will continue to have authority to suspend or alter state laws and regulations as the state continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must continue our aggressive fight against COVID-19,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. who stood with Kemp for the announcement, as did Speaker of the House David Ralston. “By extending the public health state of emergency, we can ensure Georgians have access to every available state resource during this crisis. Together, Speaker Ralston and I are working closely with Governor Kemp to do all we can to make sure we are meeting the needs of every Georgian. The General Assembly will continue to remain vigilant and available to assist our citizens in any way possible.”
“The entirety of our state government is working to protect the health and safety of our citizens, and I appreciate the work of our state personnel and first responders during this challenging time,” Ralston said. “While we have difficult days ahead, we continue to coordinate with both local and federal partners in responding to needs as they arise. As Georgians, we will persevere and emerge stronger on the other side.”
The Shelter-In-Place Executive Order issued by Kemp on April 2 was tied, in the wording of the Order, to the expiration date of the State of Emergency. It is unclear, as of yet, whether the Shelter-In-Place order will also be extended.
Under O.C.G.A. 38-3-51, the code section pertaining to the authority of the executive office during a public health emergency, Kemp will have the authority to:
assume direct operational control of all civil forces and helpers in the state;
seize, take for temporary use, or condemn property for the protection of the public in accordance with condemnation proceedings as provided by law;
sell, lend, give, or distribute all or any such property among the inhabitants of the state and to account to the proper agency for any funds received for the property;
issue orders for quarantines and vaccination programs by way of authorizing the Department of Public Health to coordinate all matters pertaining to the response of the state to a public health emergency without limitation;
suspend any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business if strict compliance would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency;
utilize all available resources of the state government and of each political subdivision of the state as reasonably necessary to cope with the emergency or disaster;
commandeer or utilize any private property if he finds this necessary to cope with the emergency or disaster;
compel a healthcare facility to provide services or the use of its facility if such services or use are reasonable and necessary for emergency response
direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area
suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of alcoholic beverages, explosives, or combustibles
make provision for the availability and use of temporary emergency housing
transfer money from any available fund in the state treasury if sufficient funds are not already available;
Anyone working under the directive of the emergency declaration is free of any potential liability of their actions.