OLYMPIA… With the state of emergency linked to the COVID-19 pandemic now past the 16-month mark, the state Legislature’s top Republican leaders say Gov. Jay Inslee needs to be up front with the people of Washington about how much longer he intends to maintain additional control over their lives.
Senate Republican Leader John Braun and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox said a new emergency order from Inslee indicates the emergency declared Feb. 29, 2020 will continue at least through September.
“Without a declaration of emergency there can’t be emergency proclamations. Although the governor didn’t come right out and say he’s extending the state of emergency past the end of summer, it isn’t difficult to read between the lines,” said Braun, R-Centralia. “While we’re pleased the governor’s economic restrictions have finally been lifted, it’s hard for him to suggest the people can return to a sense of normalcy unless the emergency is declared over as well.”
“On May 13 the governor was able to declare June 30 would be the statewide reopening date, no matter how many Washington residents had been vaccinated by then. If he could make such a life-changing prediction six weeks in advance, he also should be able to declare when the state of emergency will be over,” said Wilcox, R-Yelm.
“Our state is not designed to be run by one person – especially for this long,” Braun said. “We’re not suggesting the pandemic itself is over. We simply aren’t hearing the governor explain why he should continue to have absolute authority – not when government’s response to the pandemic is clearly focused on vaccinations, and local governments should be trusted to take the lead. If something more serious arises, the legislative branch has proven it can meet quickly to make decisions, using technology if necessary, to ensure the voices of the people are heard.”
The Republican leaders said Inslee’s silence about ending the state of emergency is as perplexing as the refusal by the Legislature’s majority Democrats to even consider simple changes to the state law granting emergency powers to the governor.
“I have constituents asking whether the governor is going out of his way to continue wielding his extra powers,” said Wilcox. “They don’t see the justification for remaining under a state of emergency. Many in the legislative branch have the same concern. It’s time for the executive branch to answer.”