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Snowmageddon 2015: The Politics of Travel Bans

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As of 10:00 this morning, the governor of the state of Connecticut issued an all-out travel ban in the Nutmeg State, thanks to the upcoming winter weather the state will experience. It certainly allows road crews to move the snow, but politically, it leaves the governor vulnerable to people who think such bans are authoritarian and unconstitutional.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy indicated this morning that he plans to issue a travel ban beginning at 9:00 tonight:

In 2013, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced a ban on motor vehicle travel as a tremendous snow storm bore down on the Bay State, issuing Executive Order No. 543, citing authority “pursuant to the power provided by Chapter 639 of the Acts of 1950.” Any motorist who wasn’t emergency personnel caught driving was threatened with a $500 fine and up to one year in jail. The internet exploded, at least in Massachusetts. The governor attempted to deflect some of the criticism, suggesting “the point is not to figure out how to come down hard on people…it is to emphasize how critical it is that non-essential travel on the roads cease during this storm and the immediate aftermath. We will be flexible.” “This executive order still normalizes heavy-handed use of government power,” wrote John Stephen Dwyer in his blog, 99% Boston. “Over the next few years, expect more travel bans, checkpoints and other prohibitive authoritarian tactics from the people at the top.” RELATED: REVISIT THE BLIZZARD OF 1978 IN THIS PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL It’s an interesting challenge for Massachusetts’ new Republican governor Charlie Baker. At the moment, neither Governor Baker nor the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has issued any sort of travel ban, but given the nature of the storm, and the number of people who regularly travel in the area, it has to be a consideration. 78 Former governor and erstwhile presidential candidate Michael Dukakis favored Governor Patrick’s approach in 2013. “There’s no question that the governor’s doing exactly the right thing — have people home, get them off the streets, and just cool it,” the Boston Globe reported. Dukakis himself ordered a state-wide ban on motor vehicle travel for an entire week, but it was a reaction to the paralyzing Blizzard of 1978, which left motorists stranded all over the state. Patrick’s travel ban was preemptive, ordering drivers off the road in advance of the storm, not after it. But 1978 is a lot different than 2015. At that time, snow removal equipment was rudimentary at best, and the most powerful snow-moving equipment wasn’t up to the task. Today, highway crews employ sophisticated equipment. And in ’78, in order to do work, you had to be at work. In 2015, a whole lot of commuters with laptops and a wifi connection can get their jobs done from the comfort of their own homes. 18610178 The impact on casual drivers or commuters is minimally inconvenient, but many businesses in Massachusetts felt the financial impact. Food deliveries and taxi services felt unsure about whether they were “non-essential services” or not, and many closed their doors. For now, Connecticut is the only New England state that has ordered a travel ban. Snow is a few hours from moving into the area, and it remains to be seen whether Massachusetts will follow suit. UPDATE: The Governor of Massachusetts has called up 500 Massachusetts National Guard troops, and has issued a travel ban beginning at midnight:

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at

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