Tagexecutive orders

A look back at government responses to COVID-19, March 23-27, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. 

Here are the policy changes that happened March 23-27, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, March 23, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued Executive Order No. 20-12, which directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses.

◦ Amy Acton, the Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued a stay-at-home order on March 22 that directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses. The order went into effect March 23, and was originally set to expire April 6.

School closures:

◦ Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 31, was extended through April 20.

◦ Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 31, was extended to May 1.

Election changes:

◦ Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed S2608 into law, authorizing municipalities to postpone any elections originally scheduled to take place prior to May 30, 2020, to any date on or before June 30, 2020.

◦ Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) announced that absentee voting in the June 2, 2020, primary election would open on April 23, 2020, 40 days before the primary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued Executive Order No. 9-20, which directed all West Virginians to stay at home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs.

◦ Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued Addendum 6 to Executive Order 01-20 directing residents to limit normal everyday activities outside of the home and to practice social distancing at all times.

Travel restrictions

◦ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered travelers flying into Florida from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to self-quarantine for two weeks.

School closures:

◦ Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced that schools would remain closed through April 23.

◦ The Hawaii Department of Education announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end April 6, was extended through April 30.

Election changes:

◦ Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) announced plans to conduct all voting in the June 9, 2020, primary election by mail.

Federal government responses:

◦ The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it would use the Defense Production Act to acquire 60,000 coronavirus testing kits.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ In Wisconsin, Executive Order #12 took effect. The order directed Wisconsinites to stay at home as much as possible and non-essential businesses and operations to cease, with limited exceptions for minimum basic operations and working from home. Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed the order on March 24.

◦ Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) issued a proclamation amending the original state of emergency declaration by directing individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placing restrictions on non-essential businesses.

School closures:

◦ The Oklahoma Department of Education announced that schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.

◦ Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon announced that the statewide school closure scheduled to end March 27 was extended through April 24.

Election changes:

◦ Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) issued a directive authorizing counties to conduct upcoming elections entirely by mail.

◦ The Indiana Election Commission authorized the temporary suspension of the state’s statutory absentee voting eligibility requirements, allowing all voters to cast their ballots by mail in the June 2, 2020, primary election.

Federal government responses:

◦ The U.S. Senate voted 96-0 to pass the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included individual payments of $1,200 for individuals making up to $75,000 annually.

Thursday, March 26, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ In Kentucky, Executive Order 2020-257 took effect. The order directed individuals in Kentucky to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses in the state. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued the order on March 25.

◦ In Colorado, an order directing individuals to stay home unless performing essential activities and placing restrictions on non-essential businesses took effect. Gov. Jared Polis (D) and Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, issued the order March 25.

Travel restrictions

◦ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order requiring people flying to Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or New Orleans self-quarantine for two weeks.

School closures:

◦ Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. 

◦ Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. 

Election changes:

◦ Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) issued an executive order authorizing a candidate and/or campaign to deliver petition sheets to voters electronically. 

◦ The Republican Party of North Carolina postponed its state convention, originally scheduled for May 14, to June 4.

Federal government responses:

◦ President Donald Trump (R) declared major disasters in Maryland and New Jersey.

Friday, March 27, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ In Minnesota, an order took effect directing individuals in the state to remain at home unless performing essential activities and placing restrictions on non-essential businesses. Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed the order on March 25.

Travel restrictions

◦ South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued an executive order requiring people traveling to South Carolina from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and New Orleans to self-quarantine for two weeks. 

◦ New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed an executive order requiring all travelers who entered New Mexico through an airport to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

School closures:

◦ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that the statewide school closure scheduled to end April 1 was extended through April 15.

◦ Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) announced that the statewide school closure initially scheduled to end April 3 was extended through April 17.

Election changes:

◦ Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill postponing the state’s primary to June 2, 2020, into law. It was originally scheduled for April 28, 2020.

Federal government responses:

◦ The U.S. House passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on an unrecorded voice vote.

◦ President Donald Trump (R) signed the CARES Act.

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Governors flex agency reorganization muscles

Governors in two states recently issued executive orders aimed at reorganizing agencies of the executive branch—with different results.

The Vermont House of Representatives on February 5 voted 108-40 to block Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s (R) executive order that would have established a new state law enforcement agency. Scott’s executive order, issued on January 14, would have merged all of the state’s law enforcement divisions under a newly created Agency of Public Safety.

Legislators argued that the proposed agency merger raised concerns about costs and agency independence that would be better addressed through the legislative process.

Vermont legislators previously blocked two of Scott’s executive orders aimed at reorganizing executive agencies. One of these orders—a proposal to merge the Vermont Lottery Commission and the Department of Liquor Control—was later approved via legislation.

In a statement following the House vote, Scott expressed appreciation for lawmakers’ interest in pursuing the reorganization plan through legislation.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) on January 19 issued a similar executive order that would restructure executive branch agencies by merging the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to form a new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). Noem argues that the merger will strengthen agriculture operations in the state while promoting conservation efforts.

The South Dakota State Legislature has the authority to oppose the merger, but no lawmakers had raised objections as of February 5.

Additional Reading:



Biden revokes Trump executive orders on regulatory practice

President Joe Biden (D) on Jan. 20, 2021, signed an executive order revoking six executive orders on agency regulatory practice issued by former President Donald Trump (R).

E.O. 13992 revoked the following Trump administration executive orders:

  • Executive Order 13771 (Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs): Established regulatory budgets for federal agencies and required agencies to eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation issued.
  • Executive Order 13777 (Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda): Established new regulatory reform officers and regulatory reform task forces to oversee the implementation of E.O. 13771.
  • Executive Order 13875 (Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory Committees): Directed agencies to eliminate non-statutory advisory committees whose missions have been accomplished, whose subject matter has become obsolete, whose primary functions have been assumed by another entity, or whose costs outweigh benefits.
  • Executive Order 13891 (Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents): Prohibited federal administrative agencies from issuing binding rules through guidance documents.
  • Executive Order 13892 (Promoting the Rule of Law Through Transparency and Fairness in Civil Administrative Enforcement and Adjudication): Required federal administrative agencies to provide the public with fair notice of regulations.
  • Executive Order 13893 (Increasing Government Accountability for Administrative Actions by Reinvigorating Administrative PAYGO): Required agencies to consider cost reduction efforts in administrative actions.

Biden’s executive order also abolished “any personnel positions, committees, task forces, or other entities” established pursuant to the revoked executive orders. These include the regulatory reform officer positions and the regulatory reform task forces established under E.O. 13777.

Additional reading:



Trump administration’s 2-for-1 regulatory policy in review

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) issued a 2020 update on the Trump administration’s 2-for-1 regulatory policy as part of the Fall 2020 edition of the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. The 2-for-1 policy applies to economically significant rules—those with an anticipated economic impact of $100 million or more. The update featured the following highlights:

• Agencies eliminated $198.6 billion in overall regulatory costs across the federal government in fiscal year 2020.

• Agencies eliminated 5.5 regulations for every new significant regulation added.

• Agencies issued 538 deregulatory actions overall.

From 2017 to 2019, agencies eliminated a cumulative $50.9 billion in regulatory costs.

The Trump administration as of January 15, 2021, had yet to publish a formal update on the 2-for-1 regulatory policy. An analysis by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, however, concluded that the administration issued 101 completed deregulatory actions and 31 completed regulatory actions in fiscal year 2020 for a 3-to-1 ratio. OIRA reported a 1.7-to-1 ratio in 2019, a 4-to-1 ratio in 2018, and a 22-to-1 ratio in 2017.

President Donald Trump (R) enacted the 2-for-1 regulatory policy via Executive Order 13771 in January 2017. The order instituted annual regulatory budgets for federal agencies and required agencies to eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation issued. The future of the 2-for-1 regulatory policy under the incoming Biden administration remains unclear.

Additional reading:



Office of Personnel Management proposes to reclassify ALJs within civil service

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on September 21 issued a proposed rule that would reclassify administrative law judges (ALJ) within the federal civil service. The proposed rule aims to implement President Donald Trump’s (R) Executive Order 13843 of July 2018, which moved ALJs from the competitive service to the excepted service.

Prior to E.O. 13843, OPM screened ALJ candidates through a merit-based selection process as part of the competitive service. Agencies could only hire ALJs from OPM’s pool of vetted candidates.

President Trump issued E.O. 13843 in response to the United States Supreme Court’s June 2018 decision in _Lucia v. SEC_, which held that ALJs are officers of the United States who must be appointed by the president, the courts, or agency heads rather than hired by agency staff. The reclassification of ALJs as members of the excepted service allows agency heads to directly appoint ALJs and select candidates who meet specific agency qualifications, according to the order.

Opponents of Trump’s executive order have argued that moving ALJs outside of the competitive service threatens their impartiality by allowing partisan agency heads to appoint ALJs based on their own standards.

The proposed rule from OPM requires that agency heads appoint new ALJs to positions within the excepted service. The proposed rule also clarifies that certain protections aimed at ensuring the independence of ALJs remain intact, such as the prohibition against agencies subjecting ALJs to performance reviews and the role of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in overseeing ALJ discipline. The proposed rule is open to public comments through November 20, 2020.

Additional reading:
Presidential Executive Order 13843 (Donald Trump, 2018)
Lucia v. SEC
Civil service
Comment period