As lawmakers in Olympia continue debating reforms to gubernatorial powers when it comes to declaring a state of emergency, a new study finds that Washington state is tied for fifth for having the least amount of involvement by the legislature.
“Scoring Emergency Executive Power in All 50 States” was released this week by the Maine Policy Institute. It ranks each state on a score of one to 100 based on the level of legislative oversight in declaring an emergency, the powers delegated to the governor and the process for declaring or lifting a state of emergency.
Washington tied with Hawaii and Connecticut with a score of 41, one point higher than North Dakota and Nebraska. Vermont had the lowest score with a 31, and Arizona scored 39. Washington’s neighbors, Idaho and Oregon, scored 63 and 46, respectively. South Carolina had the highest score at 83.
The study indicates how governors exercised their emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic did not factor into the rankings.
“Rather, this report examines the legal environment under which a governor may exercise executive power during a state of emergency,” it reads.
Each state’s emergency powers laws were reviewed across five factors, each with a maximum of 20 points available. Those were the process by which an emergency is declared; the process by which it is extended or terminated; the time limit on the original declaration or extension; whether executive powers continue after termination; and whether the governor can amend or suspend statutes or regulations during a declared emergency.
As for Washington, Senate Bill 5909 passed out of committee Wednesday morning and now moves to a full vote by the Senate. The proposed legislation would set up a process allowing legislative leaders to vote to end an emergency proclamation if it has been in place for more than 90 days when the Legislature is out of session.
Sen. Sam Hung, D-Olympia, who chairs the State Government and Elections Committee, said during the virtual hearing that the bill is an attempt to “clarify executive powers” rather than “an attack on the governor and what he has done.”
House Bill 1772, meanwhile, would limit the governor’s emergency powers to 60 days unless extended by the Legislature.
More than 5,400 people signed in to a virtual hearing on the state House bill Monday.
Under current Washington law, only the governor can declare or terminate a state of emergency.
This article was originally posted on Washington state scores poorly in study of emergency powers laws