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Gov. McAuliffe's Latest Executive Order is a Product of Partisan Gridlock

Associated Press

This week, Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe issued yet another executive order, this time to bypass the General Assembly and take a look at ways the commonwealth can respond to climate change. It’s the latest example of a governor who has increasingly taken to using executive power to accomplish his agenda, a trend that’s causing alarm among Republican leaders in the General Assembly.

Governor McAuliffe is not shy about using executive authority to get what he wants. Perhaps his most controversial order restores voting rights to 200,000 former felons. But he’s also issued executive orders to ban firearms in state buildings and expand Medicaid to people with serious mental illnesses. 

“He’s found himself trying to figure out ways to get around the General Assembly."

That’s Geoff Skelley at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.  

“From a long term perspective, the effectiveness of using executive orders is debatable because, of course, they can be undone the moment the governor exits the scene."

Republicans say McAuliffe is engaged in Washington-style politics, like President Obama’s recent executive order on immigration, which was blocked by a four-to-four split on the Supreme Court. Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says both McAuliffe and Obama are facing hostile lawmakers who want to block them at every turn. 

“You can understand a governor for being frustrated. You can understand a president for being frustrated about the status quo, and that’s why they’re really trying to go right up to the edge of what they can do legally."

Ultimately, though, it may be up to that other branch of government — the courts — to determine how much the executive can overstep the authority of the legislature.

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