The majority of those who spoke out against Senate Bill 5909 at Monday afternoon’s House public hearing did so because they think the legislation does not go far enough in limiting the powers of Washington state’s governor.
The Presidents’ Day virtual meeting before the State Government & Tribal Relations Committee follows last week’s contentious deliberation on the Senate floor in which the Democratic majority cut off debate and passed what Republicans characterize as only a nominal check on the governor’s powers with SB 5909. The Senate rejected two floor amendments that would make the legislation more effective.
SB 5909 would set up a process so that legislative leaders can vote to end an emergency proclamation if it has been in place for more than 90 days when the legislature is out of session.
“I was originally pro on this bill, and I was anticipating some good amendments to be put on it,” explained Reni Storm, a Republican precinct committee officer from Yelm. “I was hoping it would be bipartisan amendments, but I am not seeing that.”
She went on to note, “It looks like sheer theater, with – as a paper tiger – and they’re feeding their voters with pablum, and I know that my precinct people are getting tired of it, and they want more oversight. Let’s get some more amendments on this before I would even vote yes on it.”
Sequim’s John Worthington derided SB 5909 in its current form.
“A democracy has to have checks and balances, or you’re not a democracy,” he said, noting that Democrats dominate all three branches of government – executive, legislative, and judicial – in Washington.
“There’s not checks and balances there at all,” Worthington said.
Angela Baldwin, a member of the Bonney Lake City Council, spoke out against the bill in her capacity as a private citizen.
“The legislative branch is the branch of the people,” she told the committee. “We have a responsibility to the citizens of Washington to keep single-entity powers in line through checks and balances. This should be the desire of all citizens regardless of party affiliation. We all benefit through the deliberation of issues through legislators, rather than large decisions being made by a single person in the executive branch of government.”
In her estimation, the legislation as proposed does not do much.
“SB 5909 will do little to limit the governor’s power,” Baldwin said.
Concerned citizen Terry Dow agreed.
“This produces very modest limits on the governor’s open-ended emergency powers,” she said.
As written, the bill means no proactive end to the governor’s emergency powers, she explained.
“There’s no end in sight,” Dow said. “We know the Democrats could have stopped this, the governor’s powers. They haven’t. We know that, and we know how hard the Republicans have tried. And why are we safer on March 21st to drop the masks than we are now today?”
A statewide indoor mask mandate had been in place between June 2020 and May 2021, when it was relaxed for those who have been vaccinated. It was reinstated in full on Aug. 23, 2021. In September, an outdoor mask mandate was put in place for events with 500 or more people.
On Feb. 29, 2020, Inslee declared a statewide emergency in response to the spread of COVID-19 under the Emergency Powers Act of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 43.06.220. Since then, he has issued scores of additional proclamations ranging from stay-at-home orders to school closures to a moratorium on evictions to a vaccine mandate.
Robert Ezelle, director of the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division, spoke out against SB 5909 on different grounds.
“And our primary concern is that the proposed revision could allow the legislature to end an emergency proclamation prematurely, jeopardizing federal disaster funding,” he said.
Officials reported that 16 people signed in to testify on SB 5909, and 802 signed in not to testify. Those in support of the bill numbered three to testify and 53 not to testify. Those against the legislation numbered seven to testify and 744 not to testify. Those who signed in as “other” included six to testify and five not to testify.
This article was originally posted on Critics testify against what they call emergency powers reform in name only