Updated March 19, 2005
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Can Our Government Really Tell Us How Much Food and Supplies We Can Keep?
The short answer is YES, in a roundabout way. Due to numerous discussions questioning the existence of federal anti-hoarding legislation, I wanted to see if such Executive Orders had been written. First and foremost, we do not want to suggest people store items beyond "legal limits" if such limits did exist. Second, we want to separate fact from rumor buzzing around the Internet which has only added to the confusion. This search has yielded no federal legislation aimed directly at prohibiting food storage. But this does not mean "hoarding" is legal, and here's why.
So What Exactly Is An Executive Order?
Executive Orders (EO) have been used by presidents since the days of George Washington. The first EO addressed Washington's normal household expenses which ones were be accepted and paid by the Treasury Department. Pretty innocuous. The FBI was formed under an executive order by Teddy Roosevelt on July 26, 1908. The first time it was used to make a law was in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. It was said to be an 'emergency' measure and Congress was encouraged to validate it. They did and now the door was now open to ignore the Constitution. This is the same method used by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 to close all the banks in the country. Americans were ordered to turn in all their gold to local banks.
Since the U.S. Constitution places responsibility for executing laws in the hands of the President, issuing EOs is an appropriate means of carrying out the responsibilities IF they are within the bounds of the Constitution. President Kennedy, during his short time in office, signed into law 214 Executive Orders. Numerous Kennedy EOs have brought about positive changes for the American people such as:
These Kennedy EOs have a distinctly different flavor though aimed at preserving individual rights, not usurping them. Many EOs overstep Constitutional authority and consequently, are an exercise of unconstitutional power.
So Where Do Anti-Hoarding Laws Come In?
These ideas of anti-hoarding legislation may have stemmed from two areas of confusion:
First is from Executive Orders in place dating back to 1939 which Clinton has grouped together under one order, EO #12919 released on June 6, 1994. The following EOs all fall under EO#12919:
10995--Federal seizure of all communications media in the US;
These EOs are not aimed at anti-hoarding but rather at seizure or confiscation of items and facilities "to provide a state of readiness in these resource areas with respect to all conditions of national emergency, including attack upon the United States." You'll find most 'seizure' legislation ends with this phrase. These Executive Orders don't define what specifically constitutes a national emergency and maybe this is as it should be. The specifics on hoarding are left up to the individual states.
What Is FEMA's Role?
EO #11051 is interesting; it authorizes FEMA near-total power in times of crisis. There's been lots of discussion on the Internet regarding the excessive control FEMA has been granted and it was pointedly commented upon in July's world premiere movie release of the "X-Files".
State Legislation's Role in Anti-Hoarding
The other area where anti-hoarding confusion might have arisen is state legislation. Most states have chosen to enact their own anti-hoarding laws. That means some states may not have such laws, others do and not all are uniform. However, uniformity of state law is something governors are striving for under the Interstate Compact Agreement. The Compact Agreements, much like Executive Orders for the president, really don't require voters' input. They are law if the legislature doesn't object, much like Congress that has 30 days to object to an EO before it becomes law.
At times of "declared emergencies", each governor cedes (gives over) authority of his/her state to the federal government. When a governor declares it for his state, he becomes the delegated representative of the federal government according to an Interstate Compact Agreement. Bottom line, even though federal legislation does not directly address anti-hoarding, goods can be seized if national circumstances are felt to warrant it whether or not amounts stored are deemed excessive in your state's eyes.
How Can I Find The Legislation for My State?
Since these anti-hoarding laws are not federal in nature, one would need to look at Titles for his/her own state. These statutes should be located under Public Safety laws or titles. For specific URLs go to State Legislation Locator. To locate information for your state, look for laws about:
Hawaii As A Specific Example of Anti-Hoarding
For Hawaii, this information will be found in Title 10 under "Public Safety". It is located after legislation on militias, state guard troops, etc. Then you find the jewel... In Hawaii you are considered a "hoarder" if you have more than one week's provisions on hand BUT you have to dig to uncover this information. Here is a specific example:
"HAWAII REVISED STATUTES REVISED 1997, Title 10:
(1) Prevention of *hoarding, waste, etc. To the extent necessary to prevent hoarding, waste, or destruction of materials, supplies, commodities, accommodations, facilities, and services, to effectuate equitable distribution thereof, or to establish priorities therein as the public welfare may require, to investigate, and any other law to the contrary notwithstanding, to regulate or prohibit, by means of licensing, rationing, or otherwise, the storage, transportation, use, possession, maintenance, furnishing, sale, or distribution thereof, and any business or any transaction related thereto."
Committee Notes? Huh?
In the actual Title document for Hawaii, you will not find the specifics for what length of time constitutes "hoarding" nor an amount. Instead, you must look at the committee notes which describes it as the opinion that one week's supplies per person is considered adequate food provisions. It is not spelled out what those provisions shall consist of or how much is considered "adequate" until you get to the committee notes.
You will probably have to "dig" for the committee notes as well. Lynn Shaffer, our legislative interpreter, explains committee notes this way. "When the legislature agrees that a law or statute is needed to effect certain governmental goals to prohibit or encourage civilians to respond in a particular way, that statute has attached to it (you will see it printed in the law books) what is called "committee notes." The courts, when making a determination of how the statute is to be interpreted and applied to the case before it, looks to "legislative intent" or what was recorded in the committee's notes when the bill was meandering its way through the legislative process."
OK, So If I Hoard, Then What?
Again using Hawaii's Titles as an example, any items in excess of what legislation has deemed appropriate to store (in Hawaii's case any amount over 1 week) is subject to forfeiture and may be confiscated, ordered destroyed or may be redistributed for public use. See exact text below:
"128-28 Forfeitures. The forfeiture of any property unlawfully possessed, pursuant to paragraph (2) of section 128-8, may be adjudged upon conviction of the offender found to be unlawfully in possession of the same, where no person other than the offender is entitled to notice and hearing with respect to the forfeiture, or the forfeiture may be enforced by an appropriate civil proceeding brought in the name of the State. The district courts and circuit courts shall have concurrent jurisdiction of the civil proceedings. Any property forfeited as provided in this section may be ordered destroyed, or may be ordered delivered for public use to such agency as shall be designated by the governor or the governor's representative, or may be ordered sold, wholly or partially, for the account of the State. [L 1951, c 268, pt of 2; RL 1955, 359-25; HRS 128- 28; am imp L 1984, c 90, 1]"
It's The Pits Everywhere!
Before you say "I'm outta here! Book me on the next flight to Australia!", let me share a couple tidbits with you. Asking Stan where one might find anti-hoarding legislation for Australia he replied, " it probably isn't available to the public if it exists."
It is not just Americans who may be under the gun for seizure activities by the government. Right here, right now in Ballarat, three things have come to light last year:
1. If rain becomes scarce again, there is legislation waiting to be signed which will put usage taps on private water bores on private property. Again this is pending legislation since rain has not become critical in Ballarat - yet. Legislators are hesitant to pass this bill as it will be met with much resistance from the farming community, but it's in the wings.
2. Water bores on private property must be registered with the shire (county) and aerial photos are taken of all bores and dam reservoirs.
3. This last piece of interesting news was shared by our neighbor who has lived in Ballarat for decades. It should be the least popular measure so far. If another drought came to this area, private water tanks will be metered and taxed for usage! It's a good thing it wasn't fly season as hearing this made my jaw hit the pavement. The alternate plan, equally unpalatable, is to assess current rainfall levels and tax the owner by the size his tank(s)!
What I think of this is not printable on the Net. Here we've purchased the property, the tanks themselves and paid for installation of same and filled them with FREE rainwater for which we may be taxed for our prudence. This is truly amazing since as I write this section, we're gazing at moss growing on our trees and brick sidewalks. So what really is being set up?
Before you think America has gone to hell with rights' forfeitures, remember your friends across the ocean. America is no more ridiculous than this, if you discount Zippergate.
By now, many of you in other countries may be wondering what your own legislation says about hoarding. If you have documentable information, we will be happy to upload it to this page, but I simply don't have access to it. It was "interesting" enough navigating the U.S. legislation, but imagine being a "dern furiner" ("darned foreigner") trying to find information in another country. Any material may be submitted anonymously but hearsay will not be accepted.
EOs have not been widely publicized but you can get copies of them. They are all printed in the U.S. Federal Register and have the force of law when activated by a president. You can contact your congressman for information on how to get copies of these EOs, or check your local library.
1James Bennet, "True to Form, Clinton Shifts Energies Back to U.S. Focus"; New York Times, July 5, 1998
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