State House of Representatives expected to vote on issue Friday
Members of the Washington State Senate voted Wednesday to adopt a resolution that would extend all of Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency proclamations indefinitely. Members of the state House of Representatives are expected to vote on the resolution Friday.
After a floor debate was held in virtual format Wednesday, the senators approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402, with 28 senators voting in favor and 19 opposed. Two senators were excused from the vote.
Among the senators from Southwest Washington, Sen. Annette Cleveland (49th District) was the only lawmaker to vote in favor of SCR 8402. Republican Sens. Lynda Wilson (17th District), Ann Rivers (18th District) and (Senate Republican Leader) John Braun (20th District) voted against the resolution.
“After being kept on the sidelines by the governor for so many months, it makes no sense for the Legislature to keep deferring to him even though we’re now in session,’’ Sen. Wilson stated in a Facebook post. “We tried without luck to refocus our Democrat colleagues on the need to get our economy reopened; it didn’t work today, but I think we’re making some headway.’’
Braun’s 20th District stretches into the northern tip of Clark County. He offered a statement following the Senate’s debate and approval of SCR 8402.
“SCR 8402 would bundle 26 pandemic-related proclamations made by Gov. Jay Inslee and extend them indefinitely,’’ Braun stated. “The measure passed, but not before Republicans offered an amendment to maintain tighter legislative oversight of the proclamations and an amendment that would help businesses affected by Inslee’s ‘Healthy Washington’ proclamation. Both were turned down. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives.’’
Obviously, Wednesday’s development was frustrating for senators who had been waiting for Monday’s opening of the 2021 legislative session to attempt to have input in the governor’s actions to address the coronavirus pandemic.
“Senate Republicans came into this session ready to act quickly on real relief for the workers, employers and families across our state who are being crushed by the pandemic,’’ Braun said. “We understand the despair they’re experiencing due to the economic restrictions in proclamations made by the governor. In contrast, the top priority for our majority colleagues here on day three of the session was to indefinitely extend some of the governor’s less controversial proclamations, and withdraw the Legislature from its own oversight responsibilities.
“Republicans have previously supported the proclamations covered by today’s resolution,’’ Braun added. “Those being helped by those proclamations won’t be hurt by our vote today. We simply could not go along with the majority on abdicating the Legislature’s duty to serve as a check on the governor’s authority. That’s a betrayal of the people who are concerned that one branch of government has had too much power for too long during this pandemic.’’
Braun said SCR 8402 would likely hinder efforts by state Republican lawmakers to reduce restrictions on small businesses who are struggling during the governor’s orders.
“We also felt it was important to focus the Senate’s attention on the risks faced by the restaurants and fitness centers and other small businesses who are affected by the governor’s latest restart plan,’’ Braun said. “Republicans have been waiting months to represent their concerns, and our proposal to move these businesses directly to the second phase of the governor’s plan would have been a real shot in the arm for many workers and their families. We realize this path was not the ideal way to pursue our goal, but we have to take the ways that are open to us.’’
Braun, Wilson and other lawmakers continue to be surprised that Democratic legislators are content to remain on the sidelines without input into how to help the state address issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have to believe our Democrat colleagues are seeing the same economic despair among their constituents as we are,’’ Braun said. “At a time when each passing day could bring the end of another family business and the jobs it supports, this was an opportunity for them to publicly stand with these employers and families while respecting the public-health roadmap set forth by the governor. Just as we hadn’t expected to see this resolution brought for a vote today, it’s surprising that so many legislators are still willing to stand aside and defer instead of taking an opportunity to help their constituents. But Republicans will keep working at it.”