What are House Republicans doing to reform the governor’s emergency powers?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

March 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit our state in March of 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee began a process of ruling by decree through emergency powers. While some might argue this was justified due to the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic, House Republicans began sounding the alarm on the governor’s emergency powers as early as April 2020, including the fact he had no clear and comprehensive plan to restart our state economy.

June 2020

In the late spring and summer of 2020, many House Republicans were openly calling for a special session to address the seemingly weekly decrees emanating from the governor’s office.  While being completely locked out of the governing process, legislators banned together to write letters to the governor’s office asking for explanations, further information on his executive orders, legal justifications, and more.

We did NOT ABDICATE OUR LEGISLATIVE POWER to the governor. Due to election-year restrictions and ethics laws, Republican state representatives were not allowed to discuss these letters or any of their efforts in legislative communications – such as email updates, newsletters, news releases, videos, and telephone town halls – from May 11 through November 3, 2020. The governor had no such restrictions and could hold as many news conferences and send out as many news releases as he wanted.

November 2020

In the fall of 2020, our leadership team again openly called for a special session to specifically address emergency powers reform.  By this time, the state had been run by one person for nearly 10 months!  However, majority party Democrats failed to join in our effort.

What are House Republicans doing to rein in the governor’s emergency powers?

Before the 2021 legislative began in January, House Republicans made “emergency powers reform” one of our legislative priorities for the session.

2021 Legislative Session

We sponsored several bills to reform the governor’s emergency powers and bring balance back to the governing process.

We recognize that millions of Washington citizens have had no voice in state government as Gov. Inslee has shut out legislators from around the state and prevented us from weighing on key issues that impact us all.

But again, instead of joining with us to reestablish legislative oversight of the governor’s actions, the majority party in Olympia failed to act.  In fact, one of the very first proposals voted on during the first week of session was Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402, which further extended the governor’s emergency powers.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402 bundled up 26 emergency orders and extended them “until the termination of the state of emergency…or until rescinded by gubernatorial or legislative action.”

It passed with no Republican support as we spent hours on the House floor fighting this misguided and unprecedented power grab by the executive branch.

April 2021

By the end of session, with majority party leadership showing no interest in taking up emergency powers reform, one of our members joined up with a House Democrat in authoring an op-ed to The Seattle Times.

By this time, many major media outlets around the state agreed with us on emergency powers reform:

June 2021

All throughout the spring and summer, House Republicans have continued to put pressure on the governor and legislative leaders to bring about emergency powers reform.  We’ve been sent press releases, written op-eds, hosted telephone town halls, written more letters, been guests on numerous radio programs – which you can find here.

No matter your stance on vaccine mandates, mask mandates, the opening or closing of our economy, or the overall COVID-19 situation…perhaps there is one thing we can all agree upon: Our Founding Fathers never intended for one person to rule our state via order and decree for well over a year!

“On June 30, Gov. Inslee took a victory lap around the state to celebrate the end to many of his COVID-19 restrictions. When asked by a reporter about emergency powers reform, the governor responded by saying, ‘I’m not sure you want to go back and reform when you won the Super Bowl. And we’ve won the Super Bowl of the COVID pandemic.’

To compare our state’s response, which has had a dramatic impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, to a game is just poor messaging. It also misses the larger point from those of us who think the balance of power needs to be restored in Olympia.”

—House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox

Today

While House Republicans have exhausted many of the options available to us as the minority party, our work on this important issue continues. We need your help now more than ever.  The people must make their voices made known loud and clear. The Legislature recently sued the governor over his misuse of veto power and won in Superior Court in June of 2020.  However, Democrats have shown no interest in challenging the governor’s emergency powers in any way – whether it be through legislative action or the court system.

We urge you to contact the governor here, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) here.  You can contact the Washington State Speaker of the House, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, here.  And Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig here.

We’ll never stop fighting for you and your voice.  But if you want to bring balance back to our historic system of governing; if you’re tired of one-person rule in our state; if you want to see your state elected officials part of the process and therefor ACCOUNTABLE TO YOU once again…please speak up and contact the individuals above.

“There is only one person in the state of Washington who has the capability to save those lives right now, and it happens to be the governor of the state of Washington.”

—Gov. Jay Inslee