Braun Bill Would Allow All Businesses to Reopen With Phase 2 Restrictions

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Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, in partnership with moderate Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, pre-filed legislation Thursday that would allow all businesses and activities impacted by statewide pandemic restrictions to resume as normal under Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s new “Healthy Washington” reopening plan.

“The legislature finds that Washingtonians have been patient and vigilant in the long fight against COVID-19,” the bill reads. “While the people must be commended for their endurance in the face of a historic trial, it is time for Washington’s government to demonstrate that it trusts Washingtonians to conduct their affairs with a sense of individual responsibility and due consideration for others.”

The bill would significantly alter Inslee’s new reopening plan, which will begin Monday, the first day of the legislative session. Phase 2 of “Healthy Washington” still confers strict rules on businesses, gatherings and ceremonies. Restaurants would be allowed to offer indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. Indoor social gatherings, currently prohibited, would be capped at five people from outside a household, and limited to two households. Gyms would also be limited to 25 percent capacity.

The plan splits the state into eight regions, which will progress into Phase 2 if they hit four different metrics regarding case counts, hospitalizations, ICU occupancy and test positivity. It’s unclear how quickly regions will move into the less restrictive phase. The state average for test positivity is 10.6 percent as of Thursday — just above the benchmark set by Inslee. The state average for ICU occupancy also meets the requirement. Hospitalization rates and case rates are also both on the decline statewide.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Braun said that while he hopes to get targeted relief to businesses early on in the session, “most businesses just want the ability to say ‘stay out of my way, let me do my job within the rules.’” He said the best way to help businesses suffering during the pandemic is to allow them to reopen.

The bill is the second partnership between Braun and Mullet in the upcoming legislative session. Last week, the bipartisan duo also pre-filed a bill that would force public school districts to bring students back in-person if they hit a new metric on COVID-19 test positivity.

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