Action needed on restaurant, small-business reopenings, Wilson says

Ranking Republican on State Government committee moves for vote

OLYMPIA – Washington must act quickly to reopen small businesses that have been shuttered by the COVID-19 lockdown, says Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, following an effort in committee Wednesday to bring the issue to a vote.

During a meeting of the Senate State Government and Elections Committee, Wilson, ranking Republican on the panel, moved for an immediate vote on Senate Bill 5114. The bipartisan measure would move the entire state to “Phase 2” of its lockdown plan, allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining, reopening gyms and entertainment venues, and relaxing other restrictions on public gatherings. Social-distancing precautions would continue to be observed.

Rather than entertain the motion, the Democratic chair adjourned the meeting.

Afterward, Sen. Wilson said he hopes lawmakers recognize the importance of the issue and that the state moves quickly to resolve it. “I hope I didn’t ruffle too many feathers with the motion,” Wilson said. “But matters of procedure are not as important as getting the state back to work.

“Last week some 1,600 people signed in for the hearing on the bill, and 93 percent of them were in favor. Seldom do we see such an enormous demonstration of public support for a single bill. In a year when COVID restrictions prevent rallies on the Capitol steps, this is as clear an indication of public sentiment as we’re going to see.

“Washington remains one of the most restrictive states in the country. We are one of just four states now that continue to prohibit indoor dining. Last summer and fall, when the rules were briefly relaxed, small businesses demonstrated they can operate safely within social distancing guidelines. Today, as the result of the continued lockdown, businesses are closing for good and temporary job losses are becoming permanent.

“Dealing with this crisis ought to be the state’s top priority, yet so far no vote on SB 5114 has been scheduled. Whether we pass the bill or we resolve this issue some other way, we need to get these businesses reopened. We need to do our job so that the people can get back to theirs.”