Legislative enabling allows Inslee continued “authoritarian” rule says Fortunato about COVID response

Devastating impacts to state economy underscore need for special legislative session

Over the weekend, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a rollback of the progress on reopening Washington’s economy with renewed restrictions on small businesses in a modified lockdown right before the winter holidays. Among the changes are a slashing of retail capacity and the closure of in-person dining to stem an uptick of COVID-19 infections. State Sen. Phil Fortunato is contending that the latest restrictions don’t follow the science considering infection data and that the Legislature must assert itself.

“The Legislature needs to step up and assert its authority by not agreeing to any proclamations no matter how good they sound,” said Fortunato. “I haven’t voted to approve a proclamation since May, but too many are giving away our branch of government’s leverage and enabling this to continue. If just one of the four caucuses don’t agree, Inslee can’t keep extending his emergency powers.

“Of the data I have seen, restaurants and shopping aren’t where the infections are happening. It doesn’t make any sense to target these already battered industries right before the holidays. This could mean tens of thousands more Washingtonians will be out of work with no help from the state. It’s mean-spirited and unscientific.”

In a news conference, Inslee indicated that the state would be mounting some response to help those affected, but Fortunato, R-Auburn, points out that legislative input is desperately needed. For months he has called for a special legislative session, yet Inslee has resisted and chosen instead to govern through proclamations. Fortunato points out that legislators’ continued approval of proclamations has enabled Inslee to continue his “authoritarian” rule.

“The governor should not be allowed to continue to unilaterally make these kinds of decisions,” Fortunato said. “The job of appropriating money is the Legislature’s role. The lack of engagement with us has resulted in these kind of nonsense regulations that will put people up a creek without a paddle. Hoping the U.S. Congress will step in is not a plan.”