State Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, and Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, released statements on Monday calling for reform of state laws on emergency powers in 2023. Monday marked the last day of the state of emergency Gov. Jay Inslee declared 975 days ago to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ending the state of emergency is long overdue. Washington was under one-man rule for 975 days. With this finally behind us, I hope the majority party will be willing to discuss legitimate bipartisan reform of the governor’s emergency powers,” Braun said.
According to Braun, the party of the governor shouldn’t matter when it comes to emergency powers. Braun said it’s important to not shut “the people” out of the law-making process.
“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,” said Wilson, who pointed to learning loss among K-12 students as evidence for what she views as the need to change state law.
In Wilson’s view, current state law prevents the people from having a voice when it comes to emergency powers, arguing the legislative branch, which she believes is closest to the people, is shut out of the decision making process. She also says new technology allows the Legislature to make decisions without meeting in Olympia, which Wilson believes undermines part of the reasoning behind current laws on emergency powers.
“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,” Wilson said.
Wilson further argues Democrats in the Legislature were working to change state law on emergency powers in 2019 but then became against changing the law on emergency powers after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“The reforms we have proposed wouldn’t prevent future governors from declaring a state of emergency or issuing executive orders to respond to an emergency. They would, however, preserve legislative oversight and approval if the declaration continues beyond 30 days. That’s reasonable reform and it needs to happen in 2023,” Braun said.