California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he will not lift a state of emergency that gives him broad powers to impose or suspend rules involving the coronavirus. But he still intends to lift most mask and other restrictions on that date.
California has been under the state of emergency since March 4, 2020. Since then, Newsom has authorized billions of dollars in emergency spending and issued at least 47 executive orders to alter or suspend 200 state laws and regulations because of the virus, according to a resolution authored by Republican state senators.
"This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished, it’s not taking the summer months off," Newsom said during a news conference where he drew the names of 15 vaccinated people to win $50,000 in a lottery intended to boost the inoculation rate.
Newsom has the authority to end the state of emergency himself. The state Legislature can also end it by passing a concurrent resolution. Republicans in the state Senate, led by state Sen. Melissa Melendez, have tried repeatedly to force a vote on such a resolution, but Democrats, who have a majority of seats, have blocked it.
"If Newsom believes the state is safe enough to reopen, then it’s safe for people to be able to make decisions for themselves without his arbitrary and capricious rules," Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk said. "I believe it is time for him to hang up his crown and restore our democracy."
California has been slower than other states to end its coronavirus rules.
Newsom is likely to face a recall election later this year — an effort driven by anger over his handling of the pandemic.
Since the recall effort gained steam, Newsom and the Legislature have authorized $2.3 billion in cash payments for low-income adults, with plans to give another $8.1 billion in rebates to most taxpaying adults later this year. And he has pledged to give out more than $100 million in incentives for people to get vaccinated.
Friday, Newsom answered criticism that those decisions were driven by a desire to build goodwill among voters and avoid an early exit from office.
"Every single decision I have made is consistent with the work I’ve done for decades and what I campaigned on," Newsom said.