On March 10, 2020, Governor Baker issued Executive Order No. 591 entitled “Declaration of a State of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19”.
The Order was made “Pursuant to the powers granted to the Governor in Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, and 8A of Chapter 639 of the Acts of 1950, as amended.”
Here’s a summary of each section of the law cited in the Order.
Section 5 states that “the governor may issue a proclamation or proclamations setting forth a state of emergency” in order to “protect the public peace, health, security and safety, and to preserve the lives and property of the people of the commonwealth”. This section is intended to apply in cases of “enemy attack, sabotage or other hostile action” or in cases of “fire, flood, earthquake or other natural causes”.
Section 6 authorizes the governor to cooperate with “federal and sister state authorities” during the state of emergency.
Section 7 gives that governor nearly unlimited power during the state of emergency. It states
the governor, in addition to any other authority vested in him by law, shall have and may exercise any and all authority over persons and property necessary or expedient for meeting said state of emergency, which the general court in the exercise of its constitutional authority may confer upon him as supreme executive magistrate of the commonwealth and commander-in-chief of the military forces thereof
This section then gives a long list of activities the governor may regulate. The list includes “assemblages, parades or pedestrian travel”.
Section 8 states that violations of the governor’s orders “shall be punished by imprisonment of not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or both”.
Finally, according to Section 8A, any laws or regulations that are inconsistent with orders during the state of emergency shall be inoperative until the state of emergency is over.
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