The 2023 Washington Legislature will be the 4th consecutive session with no emergency powers reforms to emerge. A pair of bills that sought to give the legislature some oversight over the governor’s emergency powers did not receive as much as a public hearing and are likely dead this session. .
The bi-partisan sponsored SB 5063 proposed several options for the legislature or House and Senate leaders to terminate or extend emergency declarations during or outside of when the legislature was meeting. Read more details at The Center Square
The GOP sponsored HB 1535 limited state of emergencies issued by the Governor to 60 day limits unless lawmakers voted to extend them. The bill also gave the legislature the ability to end specific restrictions placed by the Governor.
Gov. Inslee declared a statewide emergency for COVID-19 response in Feb. 2020 that lasted 975 days until last October. Directives included shelter-in-place orders, school closures, business shutdowns, restrictions on places of worship, a moratorium on evictions, mask mandates and COVID vaccination as a condition of employment. COVID vaccine requirements for state employees remain in place.
Gov. Inslee appeared on the KPQ Agenda program Feb 24th and was asked when Washington State might follow the lead of Seattle and King County which have dropped COVID vaccination requirements as a condition of employment. "Well, we have thought about this. We're continuing to look at the science and the conditions of our workforce. It's still a disease that can be deadly, or get you hospitalized. And we do know that the vaccine can really dramatically reduce your risk of being hospitalized or dying"
Inslee went on to discuss an agreement with state employees "They agree that this makes sense. Going forward, we have an incentive package to incentivize them to get the booster. If they haven't had the boosters and incentive program that's not a requirement. So it's working for us. State Employees accept it. And I think at the moment it continues to make sense and you know, we make our own decision. We don't we don't let other people drive the state. So that's where we are at the moment. We'll continue to evaluate this as time goes on"
Gov. Inslee believes the policies enacted under his emergency orders saved lives. We would have lost another 19,000 lives in the state of Washington, 19,000 people. And I think that we made decisions that were intending to save lives. And did save lives and they were very, very difficult for people. They were very difficult for our business people. They were very difficult for our educators and our students and our families and all of us went through an extremely difficult time. And I believe life is the most precious thing we have. And I'm glad that we did what we did" Inslee said.
By that measure, vax requirements may never be lifted for state workers. Gov. Inslee said not necessarily. "As the conditions of the infection could go down, as our employment picture, we will look at that". The Gov. believes vaccination requirements for state workers affects a fairly small number of people and could be lifted.
"This is just people applying for the first time for state employment. Yeah, that can be lifted at some point depending on the conditions of the disease, the virus and the epidemiology that we follow. We continue to follow very closely" --Gov. Inslee