Author Archives: kimberlywirtz

Braun says new Senate rules severely limit access to democracy

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 11, 2021

OLYMPIA…After an historic day in the Washington State Legislature where changes to the rules were adopted to allow for the 2021 Legislative Session to continue remotely, Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released a statement.

Braun said he’s disappointed that majority Democrats refused to bend on new Senate operating rules for the 2021 legislative session that will severely restrict public access to lawmakers and the legislative process.

“No one disputes that this session has to be conducted differently because of the pandemic, but the rules put in place today seem to have been written months ago when Republican lawmakers still hoped the governor would see the wisdom of having a special session to get a head-start on pandemic relief for Washington families and employers. Whether we’re seeing more COVID cases or new strains of the virus here in January is not so much the point – the Legislature does its work in big, boxy buildings, we know more about the virus than ever, and the same precautions that have been effective for months in other big-box establishments or even small retail outlets can work here.

“Republicans offered reasonable proposals to make this legislative session much more transparent and accessible, without creating unnecessary health risks. We were looking for ways to get to ‘yes’ on giving folks across this great state more opportunity to have their different viewpoints heard. For months the people of our state have had to deal with a form of government they didn’t recognize, and now they’re getting a second dose with a lawmaking process that may lead some to question the legitimacy of the decisions that are made.”

“Our Democrat colleagues view access to democracy as being about voter registration. To Republicans it’s also about enabling public participation after the elections are over, when the real work of making policy begins. The majority tried to make the case today that rules to reduce public access are somehow about increasing transparency, but I doubt that will get past the people.”

  • Senate Republican Floor Leader Shelly Short, R-Addy, proposed an amendment that would allow more public participation in the legislative process through the public’s proper use of masks and social distancing. (SR 8601, S AMD 1)
  • Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, proposed an amendment to allow all Senators to make motions so that they can adequately represent the people who elected them. (SR 8601, S AMD 2)
  • Fortunato, R-Auburn, offered an amendment to increase Senators’ in-person participation by allowing them to speak and vote from Senate galleries. (SR 8601, S AMD 3)
  • Ericksen, R-Ferndale, proposed a Senate Resolution to convene a 30-day special session now, waiting to convene a full 105-day session until the public health situation will allow full public access. (SCR 8400)

 

 

 

Braun condemns violence at U.S. Capitol as threat to democracy, safety

By kimberlywirtz | Published on January 06, 2021

OLYMPIA…Washington State Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released the following statement regarding protests in Washington, D.C. that have resulted in breaches of security, a lockdown of the U.S. Capitol and the distribution of gas masks to legislators.

 

“What we are seeing at our nation’s Capitol today is unacceptable. I condemned the violent protests here in our state and around the country this summer and I condemn today’s actions just as strongly. Attacking the U.S. Capitol is no more justifiable than attacking our state capitol, or a police precinct, or private property that happens to be in a certain part of a city. No matter the reasoning behind it, violence is not the answer.

 

“One of the bedrocks of our democracy – something that has distinguished our nation from many others for centuries – is the peaceful transfer of power from one elected official to another. I understand that some question the legitimacy of the recent election. The U.S. Constitution guarantees them the right to have their voices heard through peaceful assembly. They even have the right to challenge the election process in a court of law. But nothing grants anyone the right to storm the Capitol building and terrify those inside.

 

“I sincerely hope those protesting at the Washington State Capitol who share a cause with those protesting in D.C. today recognize the volatility of the situation and the need to maintain public safety, respect the role of the Capitol campus security officers and conduct themselves peacefully. Violence is not the path forward.”

 

Republican leader sends letter to governor explaining refusal to extend two proclamations

By kimberlywirtz | Published on 

Dear Governor Inslee:

As the letter yesterday documented, my caucus—as per the provisions of RCW
43.06.220(4)–did not approve of the extension of the statutory waivers and
suspensions ordered in Proclamations 20-58 and 20-63.

The immediate cause of our caucus’ disapproval is your continued shutdown of
restaurants and gyms without a firm basis in data and science.

Governor, our constituents are in agony. Life savings are being lost. Vulnerable
workers are thrown out of jobs. Many of them have had ongoing challenges
obtaining unemployment benefits that are due to them…

Click here to read the full letter.

Republican leaders respond to governor’s new 2-phase ‘reopening’ plan

By kimberlywirtz | Published on 

“As Washingtonians are forced to comply with the detailed demands of the governor for marginal impacts on public health, he has demanded no accountability from important state agencies involved in the pandemic response. His Employment Security Department failed to prevent massive fraud and deliver timely unemployment benefits to those in desperate need. It continues to fail them. And after months of criticizing the federal government’s efforts, the governor’s Department of Health just admitted that the state has fallen behind in its vaccine rollout. We need the governor to hold his state agencies accountable, help those who have been devastated by his actions and safely reopen businesses and schools.

“The legislative session begins Monday. Republicans have already introduced solutions and will be putting more ideas on the table soon. We will also bring the voices of forgotten Washingtonians to the legislative arena.”

Legislative Republican leaders respond to Gov. Jay Inslee’s extension of statewide restrictions

By kimberlywirtz | Published on December 30, 2020

House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox and Senate Republican Leader John Braun released the following statements today in response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s one-week extension of statewide restrictions:

House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox:

“I’m disappointed in the governor’s decision. State government continues to focus on how it can shut employers down instead of how it can help them survive. These extended statewide restrictions will take us up to the beginning of the legislative session. That day can’t come soon enough. Republicans will have solutions ready to help small businesses and the people who rely on them. We hope our Democratic colleagues share our sense of urgency and understand immediate actions need to be taken.”

 

Senate Republican Leader John Braun:

“The governor says we will get through this together, but he is arbitrarily, without apparent regard for science or data, leaving behind our restaurants and gyms. He’s making these decisions from the comfort of a state salary that hasn’t skipped a paycheck during his shutdowns. Why wait another week? Why punish small businesses that have gone to great expense, at a time when they can least afford it, to comply with safety measures by crushing any hope they have of saving their livelihoods?

 

“His proposals to help people stay afloat should have followed the same approach doctors follow in the Hippocratic Oath. ‘First, do no harm.’ We are past that point now, but we can prevent further harm by ending these unwarranted and cruel restrictions. The governor should work with, rather than against, these businesses, many of which are family owned. He should trust them to do the right thing – none of them want their customers to get sick.

 

“I’ve said before that Washingtonians can work through hard challenges, but the goal posts keep getting moved further and further away. Many people feel that the targets needed to reduce isolation are arbitrary and unachievable and that the governor will just let them languish indefinitely. Empirical data…the science…doesn’t support the governor’s decision – no matter how much he likes to toss that word around.”

 

Republicans respond to governor’s extension of tighter restrictions on small business

By kimberlywirtz | Published on December 08, 2020

OLYMPIA…Senate and House Republicans released the following joint statement in response to Gov. Inslee’s announcement today that tighter restrictions on small businesses, such as restaurants and gyms, will continue until Jan. 4:

 

“Public health is our top concern, including the mental health of people all over Washington who are coping with the impacts of the virus and the shutdowns. It’s very disappointing to see someone who has been drawing a government salary through this entire hardship ordering small businesses to continue complying with restrictions that are making it hard or impossible for them to feed their families. The governor has no idea the anguish and desperation average people are feeling right now.

 

“Small-business owners care deeply about their customers and are trying to be safe. Instead of unfairly restricting their ability to earn a living, we should be working with them to find ways to reduce the spread of the virus. We could achieve the same results by partnering with small-business owners instead of targeting them.”

 

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Braun, Rivers, Short, Wagoner tapped as top Senate Republican leadership

By kimberlywirtz | Published on December 02, 2020

OLYMPIA…Washington Senate Republicans today elected their leadership team for the 2021-22 legislative term. The caucus elected Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, as its new leader and Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, as the new caucus chair. Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, was reelected as Republican floor leader and Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, is the new Republican whip. All were unanimously elected to their positions.

 

Sen. John Braun, Senate Republican Leader

Fresh off his election to a third term in the Senate representing the 20th Legislative District, Braun assumes the role of Senate Republican Leader at a critical time for Washington. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the physical and economic health of the state and its residents, as Gov. Jay Inslee has taken advantage of nearly 10 months of expanded executive powers.

Braun, who has served as lead Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee since 2017, is ready to represent the desperate voices of those who have been harmed by Inslee’s governing by proclamation.

“My mission as Republican leader is to expand opportunities for every family in Washington, of every race, belief and background. Expanding opportunity starts with high-quality schools, lower taxes and less state control of people’s lives,” said Braun. “State policies should enhance economic freedom to allow everyone the opportunity to follow their talents and pursue their dreams. Too often in past decades, including during this pandemic, we’ve seen policies that have reduced freedom and opportunity for Washington families.

“Why did Republicans in this state do better in the latest election than expected? I think it’s because people across our state are tired of feeling like they aren’t being heard. They’re paying more taxes and seeing less value for their investment,” Braun continued. “We have listened, and this is what our caucus has heard. When the Legislature convenes next month, we will bring policies forward that are intended to help all Washington families and communities in the central Puget Sound area and across the state.

“I’m honored that my colleagues have chosen me to head a solid leadership team. We will work tirelessly to further this mission,” said Braun, a U.S. Navy veteran.

 

Sen. Ann Rivers, Senate Republican Caucus Chair

Rivers, who also recently won reelection, has served the 18th Legislative District in the Senate since 2012, following a term in the House of Representatives. She is a veteran member of the caucus leadership team and has led Republicans on key issues including education funding and health care.

She knows the 2021 legislative session, which begins Jan. 11, will present some unique challenges for legislators and is concerned about people who have been let down by their state government during the current crisis.

“The upcoming session will be like no other due to the pandemic,” said Rivers, “and as caucus chair I’ll be working with the other members of our leadership team to contend with unprecedented restrictions on how we conduct business. Republicans have tried to protect the public’s access to the lawmaking process during the 2021 session, and while we’ve had very limited success so far, the people can have faith that our entire caucus is in their corner.

“This pandemic has also exposed, to a greater degree than we’ve seen, how government can be greedy and unfair and downright incompetent. This year countless families have been devastated by executive dictates that pick winners and losers, which go against the Republican belief in equal opportunity and the freedom to work toward achieving one’s aspirations. Many have been let down in the worst possible way by an agency that continues to fail on badly needed financial assistance. The people can trust that our Republican caucus is focused on making their lives and their communities better, and ready to hold government accountable. We’re on their side,” Rivers added.

 

Sen. Shelly Short, Senate Republican Floor Leader

Short, who was reelected as Republican floor leader, has served in the leadership role since 2018. She has represented the 7th Legislative District in the Senate since 2017. She was initially appointed to the Senate to succeed Brian Dansel, and won a 2017 special election to retain the seat.

“I am honored and privilege to continue serving as floor leader. As we face uncertainty in the new year and session, I will work tirelessly with my colleagues to ensure legislative transparency and accountability,” said Short.

 

Sen. Keith Wagoner, Senate Republican Whip

Wagoner has served the 39th Legislative District since being unanimously chosen to fill the seat midterm in 2018. Also fresh off of reelection, he is a proud Navy veteran and retired U.S. Navy Commander, and most recently served as the ranking member on the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee.

“I am excited to take on the role of whip and am honored that my colleagues have chosen me for this position. I have learned a lot from the previous whips – Sen. Barbara Bailey and Sen. Ann Rivers — and hope to carry on their tradition of excellence. There will be many challenges in the coming year, and I have high hopes that adapting to a virtual environment will go smoothly.”

Relief package is a start, but no substitute for full Legislative response

By kimberlywirtz | Published on November 20, 2020

Senate Republicans insist Legislature call itself in for special session without further delay

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released the following statement in response to Gov. Inslee’s announcement of $135 million in relief for job providers and families:

“Today’s announcement shows the governor realizes small businesses and job providers can’t survive much longer under his restrictions. His package is a start, but it is not nearly enough. If the governor truly wants to provide adequate relief for Washingtonians, he must call a special session immediately. And if he won’t do it, the Democrat majority needs to step up and assert the Legislature’s power to appropriate state funds and create laws to help our state recover.

“The offerings of one man can’t compare to what the Legislature can do on behalf of Washingtonians. Many other states understand that and have called special sessions because their governors realize that they, alone, can’t provide the relief their people need.

“Governor Inslee’s recent announcement of his newest restrictions showed he is making decisions without having true knowledge about the effects on real people and our economy. Legislators are in touch with their constituents and bring that perspective with them. The governor needs to release his sole grip around the neck of Washington’s economy and let the people weigh in on where we go from here.”

State’s newspapers agree: Refusal to call a special session is a big mistake

By kimberlywirtz | Published on 

EVERY DAILY NEWSPAPER in Washington state with an editorial board has endorsed a special session, with the exceptions of the Wenatchee World, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Olympian. (Wenatchee has run several pro-session editorials that appeared in other papers, while the Olympian has carried editorials from its fellow McClatchy paper, the News Tribune.)

 

Editorial boards endorsing the call for a special session are The (Centralia) Chronicle, The (Vancouver) Columbian, The (Longview) Daily News, The (Everett) Herald, The (Tacoma) News Tribune, the Seattle Times, The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review, the Tri-City Herald, The (Yakima) Herald Republic and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

 

No newspapers have supported Gov. Jay Inslee’s refusal to call a special session.

 

Some newspapers have been more emphatic than others. Some made the call very early, others did not address the subject until fall. Some have editorialized more than once. Many newspapers have kept up the pressure by reprinting editorials that have appeared in other papers, along with their own staff-written editorials.

 

Here is a partial listing of editorials favoring a special session.

 

The Chronicle (June 12)

It’s time for the Legislature to come together for a special session

 

The Columbian (May 28)

Special session must be handled with care

 

The Columbian (July 8)

Special session required to address budget

 

The Columbian (Aug. 14)

Forge a consensus, call legislative session

 

The Daily News (Nov. 20)

Legislators need to add relief to governor’s restrictions

 

The Herald (Sept. 3)

State lawmakers shouldn’t wait to start budget work

 

The News Tribune (Aug. 22)

It’s time for Gov. Inslee to call the state Legislature back for a special session

 

The News Tribune (Nov. 18)

Inslee should expand his bubble, call special session of Washington Legislature

 

Seattle Times (Aug. 14)

Legislature must convene to address budget crisis

 

Spokesman-Review (April 26)

Gov. Inslee, let the Legislature help

 

Tri-City Herald (Sept. 6)

Don’t wait. WA legislators should buck Gov. Inslee and fix budget now

 

Walla Walla Union Bulletin (May 26)

Calling Legislature into session makes sense

 

Walla Walla Union Bulletin (Aug. 27)

By refusing to address Washington’s budget shortfall now, Inslee is only making things worse

 

Walla Walla Union Bulletin (Nov. 18)

Governor’s new restrictions could have benefited from Republican input

 

Yakima Herald Republic (May 20)

Put special session on the calendar now

 

Yakima Herald Republic (Sept. 8)

Yes to special session: Legislature needs its say in pandemic budgeting