STATEMENT: End to state of emergency is welcome but long overdue, say Republican leaders

OLYMPIA… Senate Republican Leader John Braun and Sen. Lynda Wilson, author of legislation to reform Washington’s emergency-powers law, offered these reactions to today’s announcement by Gov. Jay Inslee that his COVID state of emergency will end Oct. 31, after 976 days.

From Senator Braun, R-Centralia:

“The state of emergency could and should have ended long ago. For a time it was justified, because of what we didn’t know about COVID. Unfortunately, there came a point when Governor Inslee began drifting away from the data and toward other metrics that seemed more political than scientific. Republicans were right to question his actions, whether he appreciated that or not, and have maintained that his clinging to this extra authority was unfair to the other branches of government. In recent months it’s become obvious he was running out of excuses for continuing the state of emergency, and from that standpoint I welcome today’s announcement.

“It was good to hear Governor Inslee thank the countless frontline workers who helped respond to the pandemic, instead of again presenting himself as the lifesaver. He continues to point to the COVID death rate in our state as a defense for his decisions, but you wonder if he has any idea what a disaster those decisions caused for residents of long-term care facilities, especially early in the pandemic, and for Washington’s K-12 students. I hope we can all learn from those mistakes and reform the state’s emergency-powers law accordingly in the next legislative session.”

From Senator Wilson, R-Vancouver:

“Our state’s emergency-powers law is more than 50 years old and doesn’t account for the technology that now allows legislators to meet and make decisions remotely. For the past two years Senate Republicans proposed sensible reforms that would complete an update of the law and finally allow the legislative branch to serve as a full check on executive-branch actions once an emergency goes beyond 30 days. The governor showed no interest in our ideas, nor did his allies in the current legislative majority, and I heard nothing from him today to suggest a change of heart.

“The children and families of our state deserved better than they got from Governor Inslee during this pandemic. He shut not only them but also their elected representatives out of the process of responding. I’m glad the state of emergency will be over, but it will be critical for the Legislature to reflect on the errors that were made and take steps to make sure our laws are ready for the next emergency.”