“We are calling on Governor Inslee to fully reopen the state immediately. He had left the door open to a reopening before June 30, and we viewed June 15 as a more appropriate target. Now, with vaccination rates continuing to increase, new CDC guidance and other states showing the way, we no longer see a need to wait two more weeks, and certainly not another month. The time to move our state forward is now. Washingtonians want to return to a sense of normalcy and businesses need more certainty as they attempt to recover.
“It is also time for the governor to end the state of emergency he declared nearly 460 days ago – and with it, the executive-branch overreach and controversial mandates, like the recent proof-of-vaccination decision from Labor and Industries. Our families, employers and workers deserve better. Unfortunately, the failure of legislative Democrats to even consider emergency-powers reform has led us to where we are at today. The only solution left now is for the emergency to be over.”
I can’t tell you how many people contacted my Senate office during the past nine-plus months about the unprecedented actions Governor Inslee has taken since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them, using words that made their frustration or desperation obvious, asked what legislators could do regarding the dozens of proclamations he’s made since declaring a state of emergency.
We asked our constituents to stand by patiently while we tried month after month to convince the governor to call a special legislative session. Republicans made a strong case that the legislative branch could do much to help with pandemic relief, but as everyone knows by now, Inslee resisted.
No one expected our Democrat colleagues to join in pushing for a special session – not during the many months that Inslee was campaigning for re-election. It eventually became clear Republicans would have to wait for our regular legislative session, when the governor could no longer get in the way.
With 26 of Inslee’s temporary proclamations set to expire in January, Republicans were prepared for the full legislative branch to perform its duty as a check on the executive branch, for the first time during this pandemic.
The majority Democrats had a surprise for us. They’ve proposed Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402, which would bundle those 26 emergency orders and extend them “until the termination of the state of emergency…or until rescinded by gubernatorial or legislative action.” In other words, no more legislative oversight. The majority says it’ll bring the legislation to a vote sometime today.
Considering how the governor’s proclamations affect the entire state, it’s reasonable to conclude Democrat legislators have heard the same frustration and desperation from their constituents as Republican legislators have. I’d have expected they also had some misgivings about being relegated to the sidelines by Governor Inslee.
Assuming SCR 8402 passes as filed, however, it would seem Democrat lawmakers are as willing to relegate themselves to the sidelines as the governor was – even if that means betraying constituents who have waited months for their concerns to be taken to the Capitol.
Or, to continue the “sidelines” theme, the legislative branch finally has possession of the football for the first time in months, yet the majority Democrats have decided to punt on first down and give the ball back to the executive branch.
It makes you wonder what the next 102 days will bring.
— Senate Republican Leader John Braun
To work for the people, you first must listen to them.
Tracy Ellis tells us that’s why a state Senator created a COVID-19 vaccination survey.
OLYMPIA… State government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is suffering from Gov. Jay Inslee’s resistance to calling the state Legislature into session to help with key decisions, Sen. John Braun said today.
Braun, R-Centralia, Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, offered this reaction to new restrictions announced Sunday by Inslee. The governor is attempting to put limits on indoor social gatherings and has increased restrictions on much business activity to where they were earlier in the year:
“More than 250 days since the first COVID-19 death was reported in our state, it’s clear the pandemic is too big for one person or one branch of government to handle. The state’s response has consisted primarily of unilateral mandates from the governor, and no matter how well-intentioned he may be, no American would support the idea that a chief executive should use emergency powers indefinitely to decide any important issue. The people of our state have become tired of having their lives controlled and disrupted by one person. The state’s response would be more effective and better received if the entire Legislature is involved, so that people in all 39 counties could have confidence that their perspectives are being considered.
“If two heads are better than one, then all the heads in the state Legislature plus Governor Inslee’s must be better than the governor’s alone. We have ideas for tax, fee and regulatory relief as well as financial assistance to help small businesses survive and recover – steps that can be taken without putting a larger hole in the state budget – and it’s clear the number of small businesses needing help is only going to grow due to the governor’s new round of restrictions. Also, there are about 300 million dollars in federal pandemic aid that still need to be allocated before the year ends. These are decisions the Legislature needs to make because our branch has budget authority, and it would be smart to make them during a special legislative session that is tightly focused on pandemic relief, sometime in the next month. I realize the 2021 legislative session is less than two months away, but the agenda for that is already full enough.
“We can look at the same COVID-19 statistics as the governor and come to different conclusions about what they mean and how to respond. The new round of restrictions on businesses ignores the fact that it’s in the best interests of employers to ensure their customers and employees feel as safe as possible. The unenforceable new limits on social gatherings go against the idea that the people of our state care deeply about the safety and well-being of those around them. No one is questioning that the pandemic should be taken seriously, or that we should all take precautions to limit the spread of the virus. But it’s one thing to inform the people, and trust them, and another thing to dictate how they should live. The dictates need to end.”
Inslee’s refusal to accept citizen input is biggest barrier to public buy-in, says Spokane Valley lawmaker
Shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee held a Sunday press conference to announce a new ban on social gatherings and further restrictions on businesses, Sen. Mike Padden began hearing complaints and pleas for help from constituents in his 4th Legislative District.
“The people of this state are concerned about the safety of our communities and issues of hospital capacity; they want us to take the pandemic seriously, but they also want us to consider the economic and emotional pain these new restrictions will create,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley.
“The families and small business owners who I am hearing from are rightfully alarmed and angered by the governor’s illogical and Draconian response to the spike in COVID-19 cases. They want solutions that are balanced, fair, and consistent with the data.”
According to the Spokane Health District and Washington Department of Health:
- Only 5.7% of all beds occupied in Spokane Co. are by COVID patients;
- There are 81 patients hospitalized with COVID in Spokane Co. at the moment; and,
- Less than 60% of all licensed hospital beds in Spokane Co. are occupied (Total number of beds in Spokane Co. is 1531; Total beds occupied are 907).
Padden points out that Washington has already lost more than 3,000 small businesses – most likely permanently – due to COVID-related shutdowns. The governor’s latest order means even more business shutdowns and increased unemployment over the holidays – a time of year that is already ripe for depression and suicide. Panicked shopping can cause disruptions in the supply chain, and long lines outside of grocery stores with reduced occupancy limits could once again have a disproportionate impact on the elderly and disabled. Many restaurants that are barely hanging on may not survive this latest blow.
“The governor’s order hits groceries and restaurants the hardest, even though those businesses represent less than 2 percent combined of all COVID transmissions, and by the governor’s own admission, are already faithfully enforcing social distancing, hygiene and masking mandates,” said Padden. “It is unfair and simply does not make sense.
“More importantly, my constituents are frustrated that Governor Inslee seems to be making these rash decisions without listening to the concerns of Washingtonians and the lawmakers they send to Olympia to be their voice.
“Any solutions to address the spread of the virus will take the buy-in and active participation of the public. How does the governor expect to get that level of cooperation, when he has repeatedly shut the public out?”
Padden pointed to comments he received from a constituent from Greenacres, who wrote: “The new restrictions imposed by Gov Inslee are disappointing to say the least. Not being able to spend time with our loved ones, having to be isolated, is far more dangerous for our health and mental health than a virus…. I am begging you to take action against our tyrannical Governor.”
A woman from Spokane wrote Padden, saying, “Many small businesses are relying on Black Friday to recover and don’t have the ability to sell online. …Also furloughs for my family members cripples us, and even more so before the holidays. Wait, what holidays? That’s not a thing anymore apparently.”
Padden urged the governor to listen to these Washingtonians’ concerns.
“Since the start of this pandemic, my colleagues and I have been pleading with this governor to call the Legislature back into emergency session, so we can share the ideas and views of the people we represent and help be part of the solution,” Padden said.
“Unfortunately, Governor Inslee has repeatedly rejected those requests.”