OLYMPIA — The Washington State House of Representatives voted to extend Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 emergency orders, despite Republican objection to the length of the extension.
Similar to the Senate debate Tuesday, Republicans introduced amendments to shorten the length of time the emergency orders will stay in place, currently set to expire when the COVID state of emergency does. The amendments failed.
It will likely be the first of many debates this session regarding the governor’s emergency orders and COVID restrictions.
“I don’t believe the spirit of the law of the state that enables the proclamations of the state ever intended for these emergency powers to go on for a year,” said Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen.
According to state law, governors’ emergency proclamations cannot be extended for longer than 30 days without approval from the Legislature. If the Legislature is not in session, House and Senate leadership can extend them. Through the past interim, leaders in all four caucuses have extended Inslee’s proclamations, but Republicans have long criticized Inslee for “overstepping” and implementing emergency orders that have shut down businesses and indoor dining without consulting the Legislature.
One proposed amendment would have changed the end date of the restrictions to 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 31. Republicans argued that because the Legislature is now in session, it is up to lawmakers to “be the voice of the people” and look at these proclamations on a periodic basis.
Passing the resolution without the amendments would be “ceding legislative authority to the executive branch,” said Rep. Greg Gilday, R-Camano Island, who sponsored one of the amendments.
“There is a right way to change laws, and it’s not by issuing proclamations,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader John Braun told reporters on Wednesday that he would have no problem extending the proclamations for two weeks at a time, if it meant the Legislature could weigh in.
Democrats argued lawmakers can still take legislative action throughout the session to address the issues in the proclamations.
“The Legislature is by no means abdicating our responsibility,” said Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane.
Now that the session has started, the Legislature will work to address these issues and pass legislation to further help constituents, said Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver.
“We are here to govern,” Stonier said. “We are doing our responsibility and we will do so diligently, thoughtfully.”