STATEMENT: Lawmakers should say ‘no more’ to being shut out during state of emergency

VANCOUVER… With Gov. Jay Inslee’s 975-day COVID state of emergency ending today, state Sen. Lynda Wilson says legislators should commit to completing the reform of Washington’s 1969 emergency-powers law when they meet in 2023.

Wilson, R-Vancouver, had introduced bills during each of the past two legislative sessions to address flaws in the law that became apparent soon after the state of emergency was declared Feb. 29, 2020. She offered this statement today:

“It’s time to follow through on the bipartisan reform started in 2019. We need to ensure that when the next emergency comes along, as it surely will, the legislative branch has the authority to review all emergency proclamations from the governor, and put time limits on them when appropriate. Under current law we can’t touch orders that prohibit activities like in-person classroom instruction, gathering with loved ones and engaging in normal business practices. That needs to change. The huge amount of learning lost by our K-12 students and the challenges that means for their families are reason enough for us to say ‘no more.’ We should also look at changing the law so the Legislature can control how long a state of emergency lasts.

“The legislative branch is closest to the people. When it’s shut out, the people effectively are given no choice in how our state will respond to an emergency. The Democratic leaders in the Senate and House have been silent about why they were for meaningful reform of the emergency-powers law in 2019 then against it in 2021 and 2022. They have never justified their decision to roll over and enable Governor Inslee to control people’s lives to the extent that he did over the past 975 days. Allowing one person to make the big calls alone clearly didn’t serve the people of our state well.

“Giving the governor so much authority might have made more sense 50 years ago, but technology now allows the Legislature to make decisions without being assembled at the Capitol. State law needs to catch up with that. Republicans are committed to making the necessary fixes. The lifting of the state of emergency means our Democratic colleagues should be able to make that same commitment. There’s nothing left for them to fear.”