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HB 1535 and SB 5063

Les Schwab Tires
Published:2023-03-01 State
HB 1535 and SB 5063    Print Snohomish Times    
HB 1535 and SB 5063

By Jason Mercier, Director
Center for Government Reform
Washington Policy Center

Key Findings
1. Washington citizens were governed under emergency orders for nearly 1,000 days before the Governor finally ended his COVID-19 emergency declaration.
2. While other states provide a meaningful role for lawmakers in addressing a state of emergency, Washington has very weak statutory emergency powers oversight.
3. HB 1535 and SB 5063 would redress this imbalance by providing for full legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency powers.
4. Long-lasting emergency orders should receive the input and affirmative approval of lawmakers following a public process.
5. At some point, the executive branch should be required to receive permission from the legislative branch to continue making far-reaching policies under an emergency order.

Introduction
In 2020, 2021 and 2022 Washington citizens were governed under emergency orders for nearly 1,000 days before the Governor finally ended his COVID-19 emergency declaration. During that time the normal democratic public process of legislative oversight was limited, while significant state policy was set through executive proclamations issued by the governor’s office. The length of time the governor kept the state of emergency led to discussion of whether executive emergency power in Washington state should be subject to a time limit or reasonable review by the elected legislature.
In the current session two bills have been introduced to reform the state’s emergency powers. They are HB 1535 (“Increasing legislative involvement in gubernatorial proclamations relating to a state of emergency”) and SB 5063 (“Establishing balanced legislative oversight of gubernatorial powers during a declared emergency”).
In an emergency, governors need broad powers to act fast. Legislative bodies inevitably take longer to assemble and to act than a single executive, so they temporarily delegate their power to the executive in a time of emergency. But these powers are supposed to be transferred for a limited period of time.
When situations last for extended periods, months or years, longer-term policies need to be implemented and the legislature needs to debate risks, benefits and trade-offs of various approaches. Lawmakers may end up passing the very policies the governor wants, but they do it after deliberation as representatives of the people and do it in a public democratic process.
It is the legislature, not the governor, that the people have charged with making law, and the governor who is charged with implementing the laws passed by the legislature. Washington, however, has very weak statutory emergency powers oversight for lawmakers and the state operated under a COVID-19 emergency order for 975 straight days.
HB 1535 and SB 5063 would redress this imbalance by providing for full legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency powers.




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