Washington Legislature Won’t Limit Gov. Jay Inslee’s Indefinite, Dictatorial COVID Emergency Powers
Probably no other governor in the country has summed up the mentality of public health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic more succinctly than Washington State’s Gov. Jay Inslee.
“There is only one person in the state of Washington who has the capability to save those lives right now,” Inslee, a Democrat, told a local television station during an interview in October, “and it happens to be the governor of the state of Washington.”
Even if you ignore the casual dismissal of the human agency possessed by the 7.6 million people residing in his state, Inslee’s only-I-can-save-you approach to the pandemic doesn’t make a lot of sense. Imagine hearing a governor announce that he alone was solely responsible for preventing traffic fatalities or drownings. It was 18 months after the pandemic hit, but in that same October interview, Inslee pushed back against the idea that there should be some timetable for rescinding the emergency powers he’d seized at the outset—powers that he’d used to shut down some businesses as well as “ban crowds, shut down schools, require vaccinations for some employment, and require masks to be worn,” according to The Seattle Times.
Inslee’s emergency declaration is now more than two years old. This month, the state legislature in Washington had an opportunity to put an end to them. Instead, lawmakers shrugged.
The state House declined to vote on an emergency powers bill, Senate Bill 5909, before the March 4 cutoff that limits what legislation can be passed during the current legislative session. The bill would have limited emergency orders to no more than 90 days, but some supporters of the efforts were trying to amend that down to 60 days or 30 days—similar to reforms that have passed in several other states.
“We need to be able to have a say in what happens in the state,” Rep. Mike Steele (R–Chelan) told 560 KPQ News Radio.
Not enough of his colleagues agreed, despite Inslee’s aggressive use of Washington State’s emergency powers law, which is one of the broadest such statutes in the country. It gives the governor authority over “such other activities as he or she reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property, or the public peace,” with few limitations and no expiration date.
What could go wrong?
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