Inslee’s state of emergency at 900 days and counting… but why?

Aug 17, 2022

August 17, 2022

Once upon a time, Governor Inslee spoke of “data” and “science” when defending pandemic-related decisions he made with the self-granted authority that came with proclaiming a state of emergency.

Around 16 months into the state of emergency a reporter asked the governor, in so many words, if state law gave him too much emergency power. Inslee replied with the absurd, I’m-like-Tom-Brady comparison. That was followed this past fall by his self-congratulatory singlehandedly-saving-lives comment.

A month ago, as Inslee’s state of emergency passed day 850, he told an Axios reporter it would end only “when it’s no longer useful for the health of Washingtonians.” In an editorial published yesterday by The Seattle Times, an Inslee spokesman acknowledges a similarly subjective measurement, admitting it’s “not so much a standard metric as it is a judgment based on the opinions of the governor’s advisers, agencies and other partners.”

Hold on – when did the governor decide opinions trump science? So much for data and metrics and transparency.

Today is day 900. To quote a report this week in The Atlantic magazine, the latest COVID guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control are “the closest the nation’s leaders have come to saying the coronavirus crisis is done.”

The governor’s office, meanwhile, has decided the state of emergency will continue at least another 70-plus days – or more than 970 days in all. That’s the practical effect of his recent decision to let a batch of emergency proclamations expire October 27.

Washington law allows a state of emergency to be proclaimed when a “public disorder, disaster, energy emergency, or riot” is found to exist. I don’t see an energy emergency or a riot or public disorder. True, Inslee’s decisions were a disaster to residents of long-term care facilities, especially early in the pandemic. The same is true for Washington’s K-12 students – although findings published yesterday by the non-partisan Washington Policy Center suggest the word “disaster” isn’t strong enough. But those are not the kind of disaster referenced in the law.

Does Inslee see something the rest of us can’t see, that justifies his foot-dragging? I doubt it, but the 900-day mark is a good time for him to shoot straight with the people of our state.

To be fair, the legislative branch shares responsibility for this situation. It could have given itself the authority to oversee all of the governor’s emergency proclamations. Instead, it has abdicated its role as serve as a check on the executive branch by failing to approve sensible proposals like our SB 5943.

I don’t hear as many complaints these days about Inslee’s emergency authority. Still, he can unilaterally control the lives of millions of people with the stroke of a pen. Although the governor told Axios it’s doubtful he will reimpose mask mandates or close businesses or schools, he also acknowledged “anything is possible.” That is cause for concern.

By now people know how to live with the COVID-19 virus. They deserve to know why Inslee thinks the COVID situation still warrants a state of emergency.

The governor can proclaim another emergency should it truly be necessary; it’s past time for this one to be over.

— Senator Lynda Wilson, 17th District