Opinion: Do we still need a state legislature?

Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center believes we should demand our lawmakers stand up for their constitutional and elected responsibility to shape public policy and state governance.
File photo.

Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center believes we should demand our lawmakers stand up for their constitutional and elected responsibility to shape public policy and state governance

Jason Mercier
Washington Policy Center

With the Governor telling us his ongoing mandates, developed behind closed doors and imposed without public involvement, are a “raging success,” do we still need the public legislative process for governing? Should one individual decide all policy for Washington, governing by press conference, with no opportunity for the public to comment or lawmakers to offer alternative proposals?

Jason Mercier
Jason Mercier

These are the questions I find myself asking recently. I’ve spent most of my professional career working to protect and enhance citizen involvement in the legislative process by advocating for remote testimony, banning blank “Title Only” bills and demanding meaningful public notice before hearings are held on bills. I did this work believing that these process-driven transparency and accountability mechanisms were essential to the creation of good policy. In my mind, good policy involves citizens and impacted communities in decisions about their own governance.  

For the last two years, however, we’ve been told that some issues facing the state are too important to delay acting on by utilizing an open process involving the public and 147 lawmakers from across the state. In fact, we’ve been told that only the Governor can save us because only he has the wisdom to make these decisions.

Since majority party lawmakers appear to agree with the Governor that he alone should decide the path, it leaves me wondering if we still need a state legislature at all.

Sure, Article 1, Section 1 of the state constitution says: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”

But aren’t those words really just space filler in the constitution to placate the citizens as government fulfills its apparent role to determine how each of us should live our lives, raise our families, and run our businesses without public involvement?  

If the Governor alone has the wisdom and only he knows the correct policy, why are we allowing the public legislative process to slow down and get in the way of his ability to address other important issues facing the state through executive mandates?

Do we still need a state legislature that apparently doesn’t want a role in policy development?

Or, should we instead demand our lawmakers stand up for their constitutional and elected responsibility to shape public policy and state governance with the consent and active involvement of the people?

Despite assurances from the Governor, I still believe policy should be made with meaningful involvement from citizens through the public legislative process and not via executive dictate. Lawmakers must finally stand up and do the job their constituents elected them to do. Anything less erodes public trust and, frankly, the dignity and relevance of the legislature.

Jason Mercier is the director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center.

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K.J. Hinton
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K.J. Hinton
1 month ago

As I have stated repeatedly, Inslee has this authority because We, The People, GAVE IT TO HIM.

What does Jason expect a thoroughly democrat controlled legislature to do? Go after their guy who was reelected in a landslide?

It’s easy to throw grenades like this. But the reality is… This defies reality.

Inslee has yet to lose in court, most recently winning again TODAY. There’s nothing to indicate he’s losing his base, which far out weights any opposition.

We HAD “meaningful involvement.” We had it at the ballot box less than 2 years ago. I, for one, voted no on SRJ8200 fearing something like this would happen, but by 2:1, I was outvoted.

We can all make “demands.” But realistically, they must be made through the filter of our political reality

And this… Is not that.

Rhonda Gibson
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Rhonda Gibson
1 month ago

The Governor nor the President should rule like a dictator. This Authoritative rule needs to be stopped. Absolute power corrupts absolutely!

Scott Hooper
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Scott Hooper
1 month ago

I absolutely agree with this, and yes, of course we need our legislature.

But emergency action in the face of a wave of death is something quite different.

Note that The People spoke when we re-elected Inslee last year, and the scope of what some call his ‘overreach’ has and is provably saving lives of our people.

Obviously this can’t go on forever. But in the short term, it is exactly what we should demand of our representatives.

Note that the same people complaining about his minimal, relatively unintrusive acts today are the same ones who screamed in support when Bush turned the world’s largest and most powerful surveillance system inward and began capturing and analyzing every email, every FB post, every phone call, every GPS ping, and said “Sacrificing a little privacy is worth a little safety.”

We will get through this, together, whether we like it or not, and when the dust settles maybe we’ll want to update our laws. But for now, our State is a beacon of good governance.

Susan
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Susan
1 month ago
Reply to  Scott Hooper

“Obviously this can’t go on forever”…. but it IS going on forever! News flash, everyone… travel out of the west coast into the Rocky Mtn., Great Plains, and cornbelt states, and you’ll find a far different country. Washington, Oregon, and Calif. are an anomaly! It really doesn’t have to be like it is here in Washington!

“We will get through this, together”… together? Really? In my daily life I’m seeing more and more division… you’re either “for” Inslee and bow to his heavy-handed edicts, or you’re “against” Inslee, stand up for personal freedoms, and are considered weird or whacko.

“our State is a beacon of good governance”…I don’t know what world you’re livin’ in, but it sure ain’t the one I’m living in and have to deal with on a daily basis. Good governance… this comment, in particular, disgusts me!

Last edited 1 month ago by Susan
Edward
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Edward
1 month ago

Democracy is a failure. We are better off with one authority. The rule by committee is a huge experiment gone bad. Curse the founding Fathers! When a thriving successful State is the goal of our government, compromise and stalemate is too often the result.

Last edited 1 month ago by Edward
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