Our representative form of government is based upon the principle of checks and balances among three separate branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The people have granted specific and separate duties to each branch under our Constitution. By design no one branch is supposed to usurp the role of another branch – this concept is known as separation of powers.
Equally important, each branch has an obligation to ensure its constitutional authority is preserved and faithfully executed to maintain this separation of powers. Failure to do so allows one to become more powerful, upsetting the balance. A lack of balance will ultimately weaken the foundation of our representative government and increase the likelihood of a constitutional crisis.
Unfortunately, our state may be on the verge of such a constitutional “moment” in regard to the governor’s recent expenditure of $30-plus million out of the state treasury not appropriated by the Legislature. Under our Constitution, the Legislature has the sole authority to provide for the expenditure of money from the state treasury. The Legislature granted the executive limited authorization of expenses during an emergency to $750,000. Expenditures over that limit must go through the legislative process.
Appropriation of money is central to the functioning of the Legislature and in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities. I have urged my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take action and protect legislative authority. We can no longer rely on the governor to call a special session to deal with the emergency orders. Having a seat at the table in dealing with the protracted state of emergency and authorizing the expenditure of public money is constitutionally necessary for us, as legislators, to meet our obligations to the citizens of this state.