Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As I'm sure you've heard by now, Gov. Inslee has rolled back three counties to Phase 2: Pierce, Cowlitz, and Whitman. I continue to have concerns that one person is controlling the lives, health, mental health, hopes and dreams, businesses, ability to earn a living, etc. of so many citizens. Each of these counties is in a unique situation. It has been reported that Pierce County has not been given their full allotment of vaccinations for those who want one. In Whitman County, it's largely WSU in Pullman that is driving the negative metrics.
We are well over 400 days into this state of emergency. What I am observing is serious COVID fatigue. While we've made good progress with vaccines for those who want one, what I think we need more now than ever is a sense of hope – some light at the end of the tunnel. We've asked the governor what it would take to end the state of emergency. We've asked what Phase 4 will look like – the parameters, metrics, etc. – with no response.
While I do believe the executive branch needs to have some sort of emergency powers in general, the COVID pandemic has taught us that those powers need limits and sideboards. They can't go on indefinitely.
I do not believe it is good governance to exclude legislative input in an emergency situation. The immediacy of an emergency lends to the need for emergency powers. However, after 400 days, the emergency wears off and citizens, via their legislators, need to have a voice in the decision-making process.
Majority votes down opportunity to address emergency powers
Friday, House Republicans brought a motion to the House floor to place House Concurrent Resolution 4402 on the Second Reading Calendar. It was an effort to waive previously established cutoff dates and allowed us to bring House Bill 1557 to the floor for a full vote.
This bill had bipartisan co-sponsors and was designed to ensure adequate legislative involvement in long-lasting states of emergency. Under provisions of the bill, states of emergency would expire after 60 days unless renewed by the Legislature. It would also allow the Legislature to terminate, on its own authority, an emergency declaration. Many states are already doing this or have amended their emergency powers laws during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the vote failed on party lines 41-56. This is disappointing. State lawmakers and the constituents they represent need to have a voice and be part of the decision-making process.
Several editorial boards across the state agree:
- The Columbian: Legislature should act to balance government
- Tri-City Herald: Gov. Inslee's emergency powers over COVID have gone unchecked long enough
- The News Tribune: Curbing Inslee's emergency power all but dead. We should learn from Texas, New York
- Tri-City Herald: WA Gov. Jay Inslee has too much power over COVID. Lawmakers must fix the law
- The Seattle Times: A legislative check on the governor
- The News Tribune: It's time for Washington Legislature to check Gov. Inslee's pandemic superpowers
Employment Security Department problems worse than we thought?
I know this has been a difficult time for many of you, especially small business owners and those trying to work through the Employment Security Department (ESD) to get unemployment benefits or to work through identity theft issues. As it turns out, ESD problems with foreign cybercriminals and others may be much bigger than previously thought. The state Auditor's Office says it could be as high as $1.1 billion! No wonder the previous head of ESD tried to stymie the auditor. You can read the auditor's report for yourself, here. Or read a recent Seattle Times article on this issue here.
I want to thank you for reading my email update and for staying involved in your state government. Please continue to contact my office with questions, comments or concerns about state issues. We are here to help.