OLYMPIA — For most of us, an emergency is something that requires flashing lights and sirens. For legislators, it is something that requires a law to take effect right away, rather than waiting the standard 90 days during which citizens might overturn it.
State Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, thinks her fellow legislators have been too quick to call something an emergency, tacking the designation onto nearly 1,000 bills that have become law since 1997.
“Emergency” legislation has become routine, she told the Senate Government Operations Committee.
Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center agreed, saying laws with emergencies have included providing money for the Mariners stadium, a Sonics arena and a NASCAR track; requiring apprentices to be used on public-works projects; expanding the health-care exchange for the federal health-care overhaul; and overturning requirements for supermajority votes on tax increases, measures which voters had previously passed.
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No bills have passed either chamber so far this session, but the Legislature’s website shows that of the 901 bills introduced through Monday, at least 68 have emergency clauses.
An emergency clause makes it all but impossible for opponents to gather enough signatures to subject a new law to a referendum and allow voters to overturn it, Bailey said.