Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature has officially convened for its 2021 session. This year we are meeting virtually, except for the few legislators in caucus leadership positions who must be physically present to comply with constitutional requirements. This first week wasn’t without its challenges, but I’m pleasantly surprised with how well it is working and the opportunities for those of us east of the Cascades to engage more conveniently in the legislative process. Instead of traversing the mountains during winter to the Capitol, you may stay safely at home and still make your voice heard before legislative committees by going online.
I do have concerns with how the Governor responded to protestors by physically shutting out the public from the buildings where legislators do their work. I understand the need for security in light of the breach of the fence at the governor’s official residence, and what happened in our nation’s capital, but the show of force we saw on the Legislature’s opening day was a bit of an overreaction to what turned out to be a peaceful and small group. During my time in Olympia, we’ve seen all kinds of groups seriously disrupt proceedings without receiving the same response.
What is the Legislature’s role?
Government belongs to the people and as such should be as open and accessible as possible. That is why I had serious concerns over new rules adopted by the majority, over objections from Republicans, that effectively stifle debate, and limit the asking of questions and making of motions to ensure we are representing our constituents.
An example was the recent adoption of SCR 8402, a measure that extends many of the governor’s emergency proclamations indefinitely and removes further legislative oversight. Some of those proclamations are helpful to small businesses that are continuing to struggle, but it is the Legislature’s role to have a check on the executive. Unfortunately, the majority decided to defer back to the governor, even though many of us had waited months to finally weigh in on the emergency orders that have been controlling our state.
There seems to be a trend toward consolidating power where it doesn’t make sense. I am leading efforts to push back on that, particularly when it comes to the COVID-19 lockdowns and closures. We need local control. There is some consideration being given to regionalizing health districts that would be even more disastrous than what we’ve seen already. You can read my letter to the governor by click here.
There is an upcoming and important opportunity for you to lend your voice using this new remote approach. Senate Bill 5114, a bipartisan bill that would help safely reopen our state economy, is scheduled for a public hearing at 8 a.m. this coming Wednesday. Specifically, it would allow restaurants and other businesses covered by the governor’s latest restart plan to move immediately into Phase 2 of that plan. If you’d like to testify on the proposal, follow this link to sign up. The window to register closes one hour before the hearing. Please share this information with your family, friends, colleagues, and coworkers. It is important for Olympia to hear your views.