17th District legislators strive to get government back to work in Washington

Sen. Lynda Wilson and Reps. Paul Harris and Vicki Kraft spoke for 75 minutes Monday during a virtual town hall meeting

The consensus of three Vancouver lawmakers from the 17th Legislative District during Monday’s town hall is clear; it’s time to reopen the Capitol in Olympia, take the decision making away from the governor and give the power back to the legislators who were voted by the state to govern.

Reps. Vicki Kraft, Paul Harris and Sen. Lynda Wilson, all Republican legislators from the 17th District, spoke about multiple issues for 75 minutes during Monday’s virtual town hall. Photo courtesy of Washington State House Republican Communications.
Reps. Vicki Kraft, Paul Harris and Sen. Lynda Wilson, all Republican legislators from the 17th District, spoke about multiple issues for 75 minutes during Monday’s virtual town hall. Photo courtesy of Washington State House Republican Communications.

One of the questions asked is how people can get their state back. Rep. Vicki Kraft suggests a bill reigning in the governor’s emergency power to 14 days. For the governor’s orders to continue beyond that timeframe, there would have to be a two-thirds vote by both the House and the Senate.

“Some might say that’s a little extreme. Well, we’re still sitting here one year out,” Kraft said. “I will call it an abuse of power, in my opinion. It’s just gone too far and too long.”

“We’re all elected officials and we haven’t had our voice,” Kraft added. “Citizens need to speak up. We’re working to make sure we don’t get out of legislative session this year and continue down the path of the governor being the sole-dictator.”

Kraft, fellow House Rep. Paul Harris and Sen. Lynda Wilson spoke candidly for 75 minutes Monday about the coronavirus pandemic, vaccinations, environmental mandates and getting businesses back to work in Washington.

“Quite frankly, it has been very difficult for these businesses. The ping-ponging back between Phase One, Phase Two, Phase Three; there’s no predictability there,” Wilson said. “If you can’t stay open and take care of your employees and customers, that affects so many families down the road. It’s all encompassing.”

When the COVID-19 cases and concerns rose to a statewide emergency, Harris understood the reasons to shut down. As cases and hospitalizations have gone down recently, and more people are getting vaccinated, he is concerned about not seeing a plan to reopen.

“I’ve been a strong proponent of masking and social distancing. I’m also a strong proponent for public health, but I got to believe we are starting to move out of that,” Harris said. “We need to start thinking differently and we absolutely need to start opening up.”

Kraft believes getting a COVID vaccination should be a personal choice and not a mandate.

“This is all being done under emergency use authorization,” she said. “We just don’t know what the long term consequences, good or bad, will look like with these vaccines.”

Kraft introduced a bill which gives people the right to refuse vaccines and any health mandates related to that.

“Whether it’s isolation, tracing, tracking, masking, social distancing, you name it,” Kraft said. “It’s your body, and ultimately, it should be your choice.”

All three speakers shared their concerns about the low carbon fuel bill recently passed by the House of Representatives. Harris likes having electric cars and more energy efficient houses, but not when the rising costs price users and homeowners out of the equation.

“What we’re asking people in the state of Washington to do is pay an exorbitant amount of money and get very little or almost no return on clean air,” Harris said. “I want to protect our environment. Just show me some common sense things that won’t hurt those who can least afford it.”

If Washington moves away from hydroelectric power, Kraft and Wilson fear the state could face an energy crisis similar to the one seen after the snowstorm in Texas.

“Their power grid failed because they were using alternative sources of energy, both intermittent and not sustainable,” Kraft said. “That is the last thing we need for our Washingtonians for anybody.”

“We have one of the cheapest and cleanest forms of power. And now, there’s talk of removing dams and removing that power,” Wilson said. “You can’t go backwards. You can’t do that and not affect farmland and our electrical grid.”

The legislators appreciated the virtual discussion and thanked the public for participating by asking questions. They feel they haven’t been able to fight for their supporters in Olympia, which is why they talked longer than the hour scheduled.

“This is your government. We are here to represent you. We may not all think alike on every issue, but these conversations are really important,” Kraft said.

“I will continue working on many of these issues that we talked about, but my biggest focus is making sure we do everything possible to not get this session with a governor continuing his emergency powers in a sole form of government,” she added. “Our Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate should not be OK with relinquishing their powers as legislatures and just handing that over to the governor. It’s not appropriate. It’s not our form of government.”