Effort seeks to limit gubernatorial powers
Masks, business shutdowns prompt action
Last updated 7/21/2020 at 6:02pm
WENATCHEE — Since February, Washingtonians have experienced a dizzying set of mandates and orders related to the Covid 19 virus from the governor’s office. From business shutdowns to stay at home orders and mandating masks, the ongoing emergency declaration from Governor Inslee has caused frustration throughout the state. One group says they have had enough.
Restore Washington, an activist group that includes former 12th Legislative District Rep. Cary Condotta, R-Wenatchee, has worked on several issues in the past, including getting $30 car tabs and beating back a state income tax. This year they are focused on ensuring the emergency powers of the governor have limits and oversight.
Mike McKee, one of the founders of Restore Washington, said their new measure, Initiative 1114, is aimed at ensuring there is a time limit on the governor’s emergency powers. Currently, there is no time limit on the emergency powers. While state law gives the governor an initial 30 days, it does not limit the number of extensions the governor has on the declaration of emergency. Since late February, Governor Inslee has continued to extend the state wide emergency designation while adding new rules.
“We want this because we believe no man should have the power to be king in the United States,” McKee said. “This initiative will allow the governor to be king for 14 days, then he has to get approval from the legislature.”
In addition to limiting how long the governor can hold emergency powers, I-1114 only allows the governor to declare a state of emergency for one county at a time, not for the entire state. While 39 separate state of emergency declarations can be issued, they must also include specific facts that legitimize the declaration.
McKee said the initiative is needed because Governor Inslee has “failed the test of being responsible” with his emergency powers.
“Back in the day when the powers were granted, we imagined a governor would only use them in the case of a natural disaster like a earthquake, volcano or flood,” McKee related.
“We didn’t think he would use them to pick winners and losers by determining which businesses were essential and non-essential.”
McKee said without the initiative, the current scenario of a governor having too much unchecked power could go on indefinitely.
“In the current situation, the state house and senate are controlled by the Democrats who are not going to go against a Democrat governor,” McKee noted. “While the governor’s orders are being challenged in court, that process takes time.”
I-1114 needs to gather 300,000 signatures by Dec. 31 to be presented to the Legislature in January.
When that occurs, one of three options can take place: the Legislature can accept and vote the initiative into law; the Legislature can reject the initiative and send it to the November 2021 general election ballot or the Legislature can create a competing initiative to appear on the same ballot.