State Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, introduced a new bill this week that would reform the governor’s emergency powers, according to a statement released on Tuesday.
The bill, House Bill 1535, is co-sponsored by state Reps. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, and Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, and is identical to Corry’s HB 1772 that received bipartisan support during the 2022 legislative session.
"This bill brings back representative government to Washington state and the oversight required by our state constitution. The Legislature and the people it represents must be allowed to resume its proper role during a prolonged state of emergency. It is vital this proposal gets a hearing and is passed by the Legislature this session," Corry said.
Abbarno criticized the lack of a time limit on the governor’s emergency powers, and called being able to declare a state of emergency for almost three years a “serious loophole.”
According to the statement, Washington is one of only four states that grants the governor unilateral authority to declare and maintain a state of emergency. Under current Washington state law, during a prolonged state of emergency, the Legislature has a limited role in determining the policies created by the governor.
"There must be limits. The framers of our state constitution never intended for the governor to wield the kind of power he maintained for nearly three years. Clearly, when quick action is needed, the executive branch must be able to respond. But when a state of emergency lasts for months or even years, it's difficult to justify prolonged unilateral — nearly autocratic — authority by the executive branch," Corry said.
Corry added he believes the public needs a greater voice in how the state moves forward and called it the job of the Legislature to be that voice.
"The people of Washington are best served when communities from every corner of our state have a voice at the table," Abbarno said. "That's why it's so important for the Legislature to act now. Let's come together as Washingtonians, regardless of party, and ensure that future generations have the right balance between the executive's ability to deal with emergencies and proper oversight from the branch closest to the people."
Under HB 1535, the Legislature would be allowed to pass a concurrent resolution declaring the termination of a state of emergency or, if the Legislature is not in session, a state of emergency may be ended or extended by the unanimous agreement of the four legislative leaders. Additionally, a state of emergency would expire 60 days after being signed by the governor unless the Legislature extends it, which it may do so by calling itself into special session. The governor would also be prohibited from reinstating a state of emergency after it has expired.