New bill would limit Governor’s emergency power

Jan 7, 2021
Written by wpengine

The Governor would be unable to renew emergency proclamations for more than 30 days without a concurring resolution from the Legislature under a bill pre-filed on Christmas Eve by two state Senators.

Sponsors Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) and Lynda Wilson (R-Vancouver) maintain that Governor Inslee’s current exclusive authority to order closures to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus has been too disruptive and economically damaging to businesses and their employees.

Under SB 5039, if the Legislature were not in session, the leadership in the state House and Senate could extend a resolution in writing before it could take effect.

In a Washington State Wire article, Mullet noted that legislative approval of other types of proclamations already is in effect. Mullet also noted that legislative leadership already has approved some orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his bill, every emergency order from the Governor would have to meet with legislative approval to extend it beyond 30 days.

As the pandemic wore on in 2020, several state legislators appealed to Inslee to call a special legislative session to address the pandemic, but he declined. Meanwhile, Mullet said, several struggling businesses have been contacting him about the difficulty of not being able to prepare for Inslee’s pandemic-related proclamations.

Mullet believes a requirement for legislative approval should include emergency business closures.

“That to me is the whole point of the bill,” he said. “Just making sure that when there’s huge, giant, significant issue affecting the state of Washington, the Legislature, who is voted in by the people, has the ability to be involved in those decisions.”

The Legislature will begin a remote 2021 session on January 11 to consider the bill.

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