Emergency powers reform will remain issue for Legislature in 2023, says Republican lead on state government committee
OLYMPIA — Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, released the following statement in response to Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement that he will rescind his declaration of emergency for COVID on Oct. 31, two years and eight months after it began. Some 38 states have already ended their COVID emergencies, and emergency declarations will end in several more states this month unless extended.
“Halloween is my favorite holiday, and it seems entirely appropriate to me that we would be ending this nightmare on a day reserved for horror,” said Wilson, ranking Republican on the Senate State Government and Elections Committee. “This has been a ghastly experience for everyone. And I’m not just talking about COVID.
“For the last two-and-a-half years, the people and their Legislature have been shut out of the decision-making process. The emergency declaration allowed the governor to rule by decree. Decisions often seemed dictated less by medical science than by political science. We were allowed to ask questions, but we didn’t get many answers. Meanwhile, businesses were closing right and left and thousands of people lost their jobs. Many were driven to frustration by the meltdown in our unemployment insurance agency. For other people, the problem was the arbitrary nature of the governor’s decrees, and the fact that some of them just didn’t make sense. These were just a few of the problems we saw in the governor’s management of this crisis.
“This lengthy period of one-man rule really was an abuse of our emergency statutes. They are designed to allow a governor to take quick action in an emergency, over the short term, until the Legislature can convene and play the role it’s supposed to, as the voice of the people.
“Unfortunately, the statutes in this state allow the governor to decide when it’s time to relinquish emergency authority. When lawmakers finally returned to Olympia in 2021, our majority-party colleagues were too timid to assert the Legislature’s authority, and allowed the situation to drag on, month after month after month. I suspect things might have been different if the governor had decided to continue the emergency through next year. Even his own party was starting to get tired of it.
“Now that this governance nightmare is finally coming to an end, we’re going to need to have a serious conversation in the Legislature about reforming our emergency statutes. I hope the end of this emergency will allow us to consider the matter like grown-ups.
“Meantime, the governor is giving us reason to celebrate Halloween. I hope he keeps up the holiday spirit through Christmas, by restoring the jobs of all the thousands of state workers he fired or forced to quit because they objected to his heavy-handed vaccination decree. It’s time we start thinking about mercy.”