Wildfire emergency puts Inslee in a box for special session, says Fortunato

Legislature should convene in October

Republican efforts to convene a special legislative session, led by state Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, to address the state’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic since April have largely gone unheeded by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Instead, the governor has chosen to sideline the Legislature, issuing executive orders, with little to no input from lawmakers. Now, with another declared emergency for wildfires around the state, it appears that Inslee has no option but to allow the Legislature to officially meet, as Fortunato points to a law concerning catastrophic events.

“I believe the decision about whether to engage with the Legislature has been taken out of the governor’s hands,” Fortunato said. “I have personally felt that no emergency exists anymore as it relates to managing COVID. Lawmakers should be debating many of these policy and spending decisions. Inslee keeps on insisting that Washington is in a state of emergency, so I’m going to take him at his word. Under the law, the Legislature must come back into session. It’s that clear.”

In a letter to Inslee, GOP state senators cited Revised Code of Washington 42.14.030, which stipulates:

“…In the event of a catastrophic incident, the governor shall call the legislature into session as soon as practicable, and in any case within thirty days following the inception of the catastrophic incident. If the governor fails to issue such call, the legislature shall, on the thirtieth day from the date of inception of the catastrophic incident, automatically convene at the place where the governor then has his or her office…”

Lawmakers asked the governor what his plans were under this statute so that they can begin planning. Receiving no response yet, Fortunato is urging his colleagues to proceed.

“We’ve given the executive enough time and leeway, but it’s apparent that the voice of the people needs to be heard,” Fortunato added. “I’m urging my colleagues to convene as soon as possible to deal with the significant budgetary impacts of this shutdown, no later than October 6-8, and do the job we were elected to do – represent our constituents. The law is clear that we should finally get to work.”