You DO have a Voice in Emergency Powers Reform!
This Friday, Jan. 28th, there will finally be a hearing about limiting the governor’s emergency powers. (bit.ly/3tRHteQ) Ironically, Friday marks the 700th day of the ongoing “state of emergency” in Washington state.
Nearly two years ago, on Feb. 29, 2020, Inslee declared a statewide emergency in response to the spread of COVID-19 under the Emergency Powers Act of the Revised Code of Washington (bit.ly/3IMrnYn). Since then, he has issued scores of additional proclamations ranging from stay-at-home orders to school closures to a moratorium on evictions to a vaccine mandate. (bit.ly/3IuKN3M)
As currently written, the Emergency Powers Act leaves it up to the governor to declare the end of an emergency. It’s clear no one anticipated any governor would refuse to end a state of emergency and thereby limit the role of the legislature during a crisis. It’s also clear no one imagined any legislative leaders would be so willing to relinquish responsibility and avoid their sworn duties. Sadly, the current House and Senate Democratic leaders have demonstrated little willingness to step forward to address the concerns of the citizens during this crisis.
It’s past time for the Democratic leaders of the legislature to resume their traditional responsibilities as a co-equal branch of our state government. Last session, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins and Senate Leader Andy Billig, blocked all Republican bills and motions that would have addressed the problem. They have allowed this emergency powers crisis to drag on for far too long. Our system of government was never meant to be the arbitrary rule of one. (WPC Video - bit.ly/3KCy6Wd)
The Senate State Government & Elections Committee has scheduled a public hearing on Jan. 28 at 10:30 a.m. for SB 5909. (bit.ly/3AqFOy8) This bill addresses legislative oversight of gubernatorial powers concerning emergency proclamations.
SB 5909 is sponsored by Senate Democratic Majority Whip Emily Randall. Sen. Randall said about the bill in a press release (https://bit.ly/3GULxyM): “The pandemic made it clear—to my neighbors and to Washingtonians in every corner of our state—that our current system of government gives a lot of power to one person in the executive branch in times of emergency. And if the Legislature isn’t in session during a declared emergency, there is no opportunity for legislators to make sure the concerns and priorities of our communities are a part of the decision-making process.”
SB 5909 creates a process for the four legislative leaders to vote to end an emergency proclamation if it has been in place for more than 90 days when the legislature is out of session. This is a different reform approach than proposed by the bipartisan SB 5039 and HB 1772. Under those proposals, an emergency proclamation would automatically expire unless the legislature voted to continue it after either 30 or 60 days (regardless of whether in session or not). (bit.ly/3tRHteQ)
This week is the perfect time for you to weigh in on the emergency powers debate! The first thing to do is to comment on each of the three bills: HB 1772 (bit.ly/3tP3DOZ), SB 5039 (bit.ly/3GXSoqW) and SB 5909 (bit.ly/3AqFOy8). It is unlikely for the first two bills will get a hearing, but it’s good to let your legislators know that you’re watching their actions on the topic.
Next, you can submit testimony on SB 5909 because it is scheduled for a hearing. At the minimum, submit a your position for the record, and please choose “PRO” (bit.ly/3rNr34J). This is as close as an ordinary citizen can come to having a “vote” on an individual bill.
You can also submit written testimony (bit.ly/32vMRJu). If you submit written testimony, please support Emergency Powers Reform (Choose “PRO”), but point out the need to amend this bill. Any emergency proclamation needs to automatically expire after 30 or 60 days, and the legislature needs to resume its responsibilities regardless of being in session or not. In addition, the entire legislature needs to have a say in any decision making to end a state of emergency, not just the four people in leadership.
If you would like to submit live testimony via zoom, please register to do that by Thursday at 10 a.m. (bit.ly/3GZcdy8). When you testify live you have “standing” and can submit additional information directly to the committee members after providing your live testimony. Have you been frustrated by the 700 days of Inslee’s one-person rule? NOW is the time to get involved in the emergency powers hearing by submitting your testimony for the record. You do have a voice, and your voice matters! Let the Senators know you want them to end the emergency.
Nancy Churchill is the state committeewoman for the Ferry County Republican Party. She may be reached at DangerousRhetoric@pm.me. The opinions expressed in Dangerous Rhetoric are her own.