Emergency powers reform in Washington state took another hit in a House floor debate, as a “scope and object” objection was used to remove emergency powers from any budgetary oversight.
Specifically, the budget adopted by the state House Feb. 26 has a proviso creating a committee to review unanticipated federal funds.
An amendment proposed by Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, would have added to the duties of that budget committee, “To provide oversight of the legislature’s delegation of emergency powers to the governor and to prevent infringement of the legislature’s constitutional power to establish state policy through the statutory lawmaking process.”
Corry spoke briefly about his amendment going down during Monday morning’s Republican legislative leadership virtual press conference.
“I was offering an amendment to add some additional oversight in terms of emergency powers,” he said. “We have an unanticipated revenue group, and we wanted to expand that to include overview of statutes and some prohibition of activities rule-making in the executive branch and that was ruled out of scope by the majority party.”
Still, Corry retained some hope progress could be made on the emergency powers reform front.
“So, we continue to try to push for what we believe are good solutions for Washington families and for good governance in this state,” he said. “Keep hitting some road blocks, but we’re going to keep fighting for them.”
One of those road blocks appears to be Gov. Jay Inslee, who continues to make his opposition known to legislation limiting his emergency powers.
At Inslee’s Monday afternoon press conference announcing the new timeline for the end of the state mask mandate, the governor was asked about Republicans wanting him to give up the emergency powers he has exercise for more than two years now.
Inslee responded by bringing up former President Donald Trump.
“They’ve always wanted to follow Donald Trump – that’s the central problem here – who first said this [COVID-19] was going to be over by Easter,” Inslee said. “Then he told us you could take horse deworming products. And has always diminished our ability, and who refused to help the state of Washington when I asked him to help. And the Republicans in this state have followed him and continue to follow him. And continue to refuse to stand up to his coup attempt.”
The governor went on to claim “Republicans don’t care about employees who want to wear their masks. I do, because a lot of people in this state are still going to want to protect themselves by wearing a mask.”
Inslee concluded his defense of his office’s emergency powers by linking said powers to Washington continuing to receive money from the federal government.
“We need it to be able to keep federal funds, so we get federal assistance rather than state tax dollars,” the governor said.
Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center, was apoplectic in his response to the governor’s comments at Monday’s press conference.
“I can’t even anymore,” he said. “Just speechless that requests to follow the same type of legislative oversight that exist across the country for emergency powers are equated by the governor to supporting a coup attempt.”
Attempts at legislative oversight of gubernatorial powers have faced an uphill climb during the current legislative session.
The Columbian’s editorial board called what remains of emergency powers reform “milquetoast legislation.” The current reform fails to add meaningful “checks and balances” to state governance. If enacted, the bill will “have little impact,” the editors argued.
House Bill 1772, legislation widely concerned much stronger in terms of checking the governor’s power, failed to make it out of committee earlier this session.
This article was originally posted on House Democrats reject budget oversight of Inslee’s emergency powers