Emergency powers reform isn’t a coup
Two years. We have been living under two straight years of governance via emergency orders while bypassing the normal public legislative process. The Governor indicated yesterday the third straight year of his emergency orders is unlikely to end any time soon. This despite the fact other Democratic governors across the country are ending their emergency orders. When asked about ongoing requests from lawmakers to relinquish these emergency powers and support the same type of legislative oversight that exists across the country, the Governor equated these pleas to supporting a coup. This is not rational governance.
Harmonizing the existing law so that both waiving of statute and restrictive proclamations expire after 30 days unless the legislature votes to continue should not be controversial. There is no logical reason to treat those emergency actions by the Governor differently.
Requiring affirmative legislative approval after a set point in time removes not a single tool from the Governor’s toolbox. All existing authority remains, the only change is that the closed-door policymaking is required to be justified to the people’s legislative branch of government to continue a policy (i.e., the separations of power and checks and balances envisioned and promised under our republican form of government).
The Governor should not fear being required to make the case to lawmakers why a particular emergency restriction is appropriate to continue, and the legislature should not hide from its constitutional responsibility to debate and adopt policy.
Time is running out for the legislature to reassert its role in our governance and adopt real emergency powers reform.
Notwithstanding the belief from the Governor that he alone is capable of making decisions for nearly eight million Washingtonians, I still believe in the separations of power and checks and balances and hold out hope our lawmakers do too.
The legislature has just nine days left in session to make clear if it still believes it is relevant to our form of government.
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