Governor’s reopening plan splits SW Washington, leaves out most of state, says Wilson

Limited reopenings OK’d in Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific and Thurston counties, but not Cowlitz, Clark or Wahkiakum

OLYMPIA – A new plan announced by Gov. Jay Inslee for limited business reopenings is a nice start, but it doesn’t go far enough, says Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview.

Under the governor’s plan, seven of the state’s 39 counties will be moved to “Phase 2” of Washington’s COVID lockdown plan starting Monday. The change in designation will allow restaurants to resume indoor dining and will permit gyms and entertainment-related businesses to reopen. Social-distancing protocols would still have to be maintained.

The plan gives the nod to the state’s three most populous counties, King, Pierce and Snohomish, as well as to Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific and Thurston. The rest of the state will have to wait.

“It’s good as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough,” Wilson said. “The decision-making is so arbitrary that half my district is in and half of it is out. If it’s OK to eat a hamburger indoors in Aberdeen, why is it not OK in Longview?

“I’m not saying this isn’t appreciated. It is. But what’s good for Seattle and Tacoma ought to be good for everybody in the state of Washington.”

Wilson has been pushing for a coordinated reopening of businesses statewide, and is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 5114, which would move all of Washington to Phase 2. The bipartisan proposal also would allow restaurants and other businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity, while the governor’s proposal limits them to 25 percent.

The bill is currently mired in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee, and the committee’s Democratic chair has not scheduled a vote. Wilson, the ranking Republican on the committee, attempted to force a vote on the measure in committee Wednesday. When that failed, Wilson and other Republicans attempted to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote Wednesday evening. Their motion was defeated 27-22 due to opposition from Democratic Party leaders.

“When you’re in the minority, sometimes you have to jump and down to get the other team’s attention,” Wilson said. “I think we managed that. We had a hearing that drew 1,600 people. We battled it out on the floor Wednesday evening. Today it looks like Olympia is starting to take notice, and I’m glad to see it.

“But just seven counties? Just 25 percent capacity? Washington needs to do better than that. Real people are hurting as a result of the arbitrary decision-making we are seeing from the governor’s office, and even if my colleagues are reluctant, I think it’s time the Legislature stepped in.”