A bi-partisan bill that allows business to open immediately is in the works

By MARK HARMSWORTH  | 
Jan 11, 2021
BLOG

Senate Bill 5114, authored by Senator John Braun (R), the Senate Minority Leader, and Senator Mark Mullet (D) intends to start the process of re-opening the economy faster than the current “Healthy Washington-Roadmap” as outlined last week by the Governor.

Restaurants have been especially hard hit by the restrictions and many are on the verge of bankruptcy if they have managed to stay open at all.

Under the current “Phase 1” of the Governor’s plan, some small businesses are able to open with restrictions, including occupancy and distancing limits. The glaring omission from “Phase 1” is restaurants. Restaurants are currently restricted by Labor and industries (L&I), under the threat of fines, from opening indoor dining. Under “Phase 2” of the plan, limited capacity indoor dining is allowed at 25% occupancy once a region, defined by the plan, reaches specific infection reduction goals.

Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery Regions - https://www.governor.wa.gov

This inconsistent application of the rules in the current plan highlights the problem when government starts picking winners and losers in business. Similar to the private vs public construction or new vs existing construction problems earlier in the year, either a business can operate safely or it cannot.

The state needs to stay out of picking which businesses can operate and which cannot and focus on providing guidelines on how to keep employees and customers safe.

Senate Bill 5144 removes the lockdown restrictions and effectively returns the responsibility to the businesses for their employee and customer safety. They can operate as long as they can show they can do safely limiting the spread of COVID-19.

This is the right approach to re-opening our state’s businesses safely.

The bill was pre-filed and then introduced on the first day of the legislative session and has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.