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Judge Calls Gov. Newsom's Vote-By-Mail Executive Order 'Improper,' But Ruling Won't Affect Tuesday's Election

SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) — California Republican lawmakers are claiming a victory against Gov. Gavin Newsom after a tentative ruling that he overstepped his bounds with an executive order about election safeguards.

Assemblymembers James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley had brought a suit against the governor's order that gave all Californians registered vote-by-mail ballots.

Newsom issued the order due as part of the social distancing efforts due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman stated Newsom's order was improper, the ruling will not have any effect on Tuesday's election in California.

Still, Kiley and Gallagher called the ruling a win.

"The Judge has ruled in our case against Gavin Newsom. We won. The Judge found good cause to issue a permanent injunction restraining the Governor from issuing further unconstitutional orders," Rep. Kiley tweeted about the ruling on Monday.

The ruling also prohibits Newsom from making executive orders that create a new law.

More from CBS Sacramento:

Of note, Newsom's vote-by-mail ballot order was later approved into law by the California legislature, which is why the judge's ruling won't affect the election.

The governor's press secretary Jesse Melgar issued the following statement Monday evening:

"The tentative ruling makes clear that the Governor's statutory emergency authority is broad, and constitutional, and that the Governor has the authority, necessary in emergencies, to suspend statutes and issue orders to protect Californians. Additionally, this ruling has absolutely no effect whatsoever on the current election. We strongly disagree with specific limitations the ruling places on the exercise of the Governor's emergency authority and are evaluating next steps."

Back in the summer, a Sutter County judge also halted a Newsom order that Gallagher and Kiley argued overstepped the governor's powers. Heckman's decision will become final in 10 days unless Newsom's attorneys can raise new challenges. Newsom did not immediately comment or say if he will appeal.

Heckman wrote in a nine-page decision that the California Emergency Services Act "does not permit the Governor to amend statutes or make new statutes. The Governor does not have the power or authority to assume the Legislature's role of creating legislative policy and enactments."

Newsom used his emergency powers to virtually shut down the state and its economy in the early weeks of the pandemic.

"Nobody disputes that there are actions that should be taken to keep people safe during an emergency," the lawmakers said. "But that doesn't mean that we put our Constitution and free society on hold by centralizing all power in the hands of one man."

Kiley compiled a 28-page list of Newsom's orders that alter existing state laws, from halting evictions to how public meetings are conducted.

The governor also extended deadlines for businesses to renew licenses, file reports, or pay taxes; delayed consumers' late fees for paying taxes or renewing drivers licenses; suspended school districts' deadlines and instructional requirements; suspended medical privacy rules; and allowed grocery stores to hand out free single-use bags.

One order allowed couples to be married by video or teleconference, with marriage licenses and certificates digitally signed and sent by email.

Lawmakers of both political parties have criticized Newsom for not properly consulting with them before issuing sweeping orders and budget decisions.

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