Dear Friends and Neighbors,
One of our main concerns, as we head into the final stretch of session, is the lack of action to rein in the governor's emergency powers and restore decision-making authority to the Legislative branch and a balance of power between all three branches of government. This has been a priority of mine since day one.
At the onset of the 2021 session, I introduced bipartisan House Bill 1004 regarding legislative oversight of emergency health orders. This bill sought to give the Legislature a voice in decisions made on behalf of the Secretary of Health. I also introduced bipartisan House Bill 1020 concerning the emergency powers of the governor. Neither bill received a public hearing and were therefore not considered by the majority party this session.
Additionally, many of my Republican colleagues introduced emergency powers bills this session that were also not considered. Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen introduced House Bill 1029 in his attempt to reform the powers of the executive office during an emergency.
I believe it is important to point out the efforts House Republicans have been doing to rein in the governor's emergency powers. I know it might not seem like it on the surface, but the majority party has the power to hear and move our bills through the legislative process, and this session they have chosen not to consider emergency powers reform as a priority.
Recently, on Friday, April 16, House Republicans made one more attempt to bring emergency powers reform legislation forward by a motion on the virtual House floor. We attempted to place House Concurrent Resolution 4402 on the Second Reading Calendar. What this meant was the resolution would have waived previously established cutoff dates and allowed House Bill 1557 to be considered on the House floor. We needed nine Democrats to vote in favor of the resolution with us. Unfortunately, the motion failed on a party-line vote.
House Bill 1557, a bipartisan-sponsored bill, sought to increase legislative involvement in gubernatorial proclamations relating to a state of emergency. The bill would also cause states of emergency to expire after 60-days, unless renewed by the Legislature, and would also allow the Legislature to terminate, on its own authority, an emergency declaration.
In a recent interview, the governor criticized our efforts to advance House Bill 1557. He claimed our motives for seeking to restore the balance of power in Washington state was to “gut the ability of the governor to try and save lives.” Let me be clear. Emergency power reform is not partisan and is not about the governor – it is about the people. House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox and Senate Republican Leader John Braun addressed the governor's comments in a statement. You can read it here.
We are not unique is seeking emergency powers reform for our Executive branch. Legislatures across our county are debating this issue right now. What we are proposing to do is similar to what other states are already doing. We want to give a stronger voice to state lawmakers, and the people they represent, in uncertain times.
As I mentioned, we have been talking about this important issue since day one of the 2021 legislative session. It is one of our main priorities. We appreciate the support we have received from editorial boards across the state. Like your elected representatives, they understand their communities and have heard the voices of their readers. Here are some of the editorials written on this issue:
- Tri-City Herald: Gov. Inslee's emergency powers over COVID have gone unchecked long enough
- The Columbian: Legislature should act to balance government
- The Seattle Times: A legislative check on the governor
- The News Tribune: Curbing Inslee's emergency power all but dead. We should learn from Texas, New York
- The News Tribune: It's time for Washington Legislature to check Gov. Inslee's pandemic superpowers
TAKE ACTION! You still have the opportunity to help us act before session ends. Call the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader and tell them you want action on emergency powers reform. Let them know you want your voice to be represented in the state Legislature!
We will see if any movement actually happens before the final gavel strikes on Sunday, April 25.
As always, thank you for the opportunity and the honor to serve you, your family, and our communities as your State Representative.
May God richly bless you all!