Governor Jay Inslee’s Thursday Afternoon announcement that Washington state’s COVID-19 state of emergency would end on Oct. 31, more than two and a half years since it was originally declared, was still digested by Washingtonians on Friday.
Republican lawmakers, the minority party in the state Legislature, were happy to see the end of the emergency declaration on the horizon, but criticized Inslee in office as such for more than 900 days.
“The state of emergency could and should have ended a long time ago,” Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said in a statement. “For a time it was warranted, because of what we didn’t know about COVID. Unfortunately, there came a time when Governor Inslee started to move away from the data and into other measures that seemed more political than scientific.
He continued, “Republicans were right to question his actions, whether he liked it or not, and argued that his attachment to this added authority was unfair to other branches of government. In recent months it has become clear that he is running out of excuses to maintain the state of emergency and, from this point of view, I welcome [yesterday’s] announcement.”
State Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, also excoriated Inslee, as well as Democratic lawmakers.
“Our state’s Emergency Powers Act is over 50 years old and doesn’t account for the technology that now allows lawmakers to meet and make decisions remotely,” she said. “Over the past two years, Senate Republicans have proposed sensible reforms this would complete an update to the law and finally allow the legislature to serve as a complete check on the actions of the executive branch once an emergency exceeds 30 days. The governor showed no interest in our ideas, nor his allies in the current legislative majority, and I heard nothing from him. [yesterday] to suggest a change of heart.
State Representative JT Wilcox, R-Yelm, was more succinct, as usual.
“I’m glad this is over, but it’s way too late,” the House Minority Leader said by email to The Center Square. “House Republicans will continue to pursue emergency powers reform and it would be great if Democrats joined us in this effort.”
Center Square emailed several Democratic lawmakers but received no response, and as of press time, the state Democratic Party had not issued a statement on Inslee’s surprise announcement. .
State Representative Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, said The Spokesperson’s Review that Inslee relied on the best available data regarding its declaration of emergency and subsequent decisions based on that declaration.
“The governor used the best public health care evidence and protocols in his decision-making, sinning on the side of the health and safety of our residents,” he said.
Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform of the free-market think tank Washington Policy Center, reiterated his longstanding position that Washington’s emergency declaration process is broken.
“The governor should not fear being required to justify to lawmakers why a particular emergency restriction is appropriate to proceed, and the legislature should not hide from its constitutional responsibility to debate and adopt policy,” he said in a Blog released shortly after Inslee’s announcement. “At some point, the executive branch should be required to receive authorization from the legislative branch to continue making far-reaching policies under an emergency executive order.”
Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman had this to say about Inslee in an email to The Center Square: “It’s just chilling that the man who has had total control of the government for nearly three years decides when he will allow people to have a voice in their government.
Andrew Villeneuve, founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, vigorously defended the governor’s decision to end the declaration of emergency and shared his thoughts on the way forward.
“Governor Inslee’s decision to end all remaining COVID-19 related emergency orders by the end of October 2022 is justifiable, but it is extremely important to remember that the pandemic is not over,” he said in an email to The Center Square. “Ignoring the virus will not make it go away. COVID-19 remains a serious public health threat with many poorly understood long-term ramifications. For example, we know that not everyone with the disease recovers quickly. There are a significant number of people living with what is called long COVIDand they need care and support.
Villeneuve acknowledged that it is now up to legislative bodies to deal with the pandemic and its effects.
“Congress, our state legislature, and local lawmakers must get to work enacting new laws to address the persistent and ongoing threat to public health from COVID-19,” he said. “Although there is a lot about the disease that we are still trying to understand, we know a lot more about the virus than in 2020.”
He continued: “We have relied on emergency executive directives for years to respond to this deadly virus. Now is the time for our legislators to step up and enact laws that will help us get through the next phase of the pandemic. »
These laws, according to Villeneuve, should include the mandatory wearing of masks on planes, trains and buses; federal funding for the free COVID-19 home test kit program by mail; increase the salaries of nurses, while reducing or eliminating the cost of studying to become a nurse; increased ownership to study along COVID; and requiring schools and workplaces to change their attendance policies to allow those who could spread the virus to stay home.