State House Rep. Chris Corry retains a sense of cautious optimism about passing legislation this session limiting Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency powers.
That’s despite the fact a proposed law he is the prime sponsor of – House Bill 1772 – died in the Senate State Government and Tribal Relations Committee earlier this week.
The Yakima Republican is pinning his hopes on another piece of legislation, Senate Bill 5909, being the vehicle that lawmakers use to curb the governor’s emergency powers.
“No real reason was given, but my guess is [Democrats] believe it does too much,” he said when asked about why he thinks his bill, widely believed to be the stronger of the two proposals, did not make it out of committee. “That being said, we are working on fixing 5909 once it reaches the House.”
HB 1772 would have limited the governor’s state of emergency powers to 60 days, unless extended by the legislature. It would have also limited the governor’s executive orders prohibiting certain actions during a state of emergency to 30 days, unless extended by the legislature.
Meanwhile, the still-alive 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. The bill’s prime sponsor is Sen. Emily Randall, a Democrat from Bremerton.
The proposed House fixes to SB 5909 include setting a hard date of 60 days for the legislature to act on the governor’s emergency powers, Corry explained, and clearing up confusion over the suspension of activities by the governor.
In responding to the initial COVID-19 outbreak some two years ago, Inslee declared an emergency and issued prohibitive restrictions, such as closing or severely hampering businesses and setting limits for the size of public and private gatherings.
“Suspension of activities is not addressed in state law,” Corry said. “It could go on forever.”
That’s as opposed to the governor waiving laws, which automatically expire after 30 days unless approved by the legislature. Essentially, Corry is trying to get the legislation to treat the waiving of statutes and prohibitive restrictions from the governor the same way.
In other words, prohibitive restrictions should expire after a certain amount of time, unless they get legislative approval to extend beyond that timeframe.
Corry’s efforts regarding SB 5909 – what he calls a “work in progress” – are meant to add “checks and balances” when it comes to the governor’s emergency powers.
While Inslee, a Democrat, has not explicitly said if he would veto the bill if it clears the Democratically-controlled legislature, he has expressed a lack of enthusiasm for such legislation.
“I’m not very excited about this because the legislature had embraced what we’re doing,” Inslee said at a Jan. 27 virtual press conference. “We’re working in partnership with the legislature for two years, and so they have been with us.”
Should the bill pass the legislature and end up on his desk, the governor may have a hard time vetoing it, given the sheer volume of public support for SB 5909 – and HB 1772, for that matter.
Both bills at individual legislative public hearings late last month each drew in excess of 5,400 people submitting a position, with most in favor of passage.
This article was originally posted on Rep. Corry still has hope for legislation limiting Inslee’s emergency powers