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By Jason Mercier
Washington Policy Center 

More calls for a special session


Last updated 9/11/2020 at 4:21pm

Voices across the state continue to ask the Governor to call a special session to allow lawmakers to balance the budget and address COVID-19 related policies. A special session would provide the legislative branch of government its first opportunity in more than five months to address problems caused by the pandemic. Sen. Hans Zeiger this week also sent his colleagues a letter calling on them to support a special session.

From Sen. Zeiger’s letter (in-part):

“I write five and a half months after the 2020 legislative session adjourned to ask for your support to reconvene in a special session. I don’t need to explain the magnitude of events that have occurred during our interim . . .

Today, 180 days after Gov. Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to the rise of COVID-19, it is long past time for the state legislature to be fully engaged in the response. I write this not to challenge the governor or oppose the governor, but to work in partnership with the governor, and in so doing to fulfill our constitutional obligation to represent our constituents.

Throughout the country, other state legislatures have convened in special sessions in recent months, and the U.S. Congress has met to conduct its work. These other legislative bodies have shown that they can do this work safely . . .

But the reasons for the legislature to meet in these late days of summer extend far beyond our role in reviewing emergency policy that originates with the governor. There are also roles in the balance of state powers that belong to the legislature as the elected representatives of the people, and that it is right for us to assert.”

The state’s editorial pages have also been calling for a special session. Here is a sample:

• Longview Daily News – “. . . Inslee should follow the example set by Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown has called two special sessions this summer . . . More conversations need to take place. As the governor frequently reminds Washingtonians in regards to the pandemic, we’re all in this together.”

• Seattle Times – “Time is wasting and, in Washington state, it’s wasting money. A special session of Washington’s Legislature must be convened to address the state’s enormous budget crisis. Gov. Jay Inslee’s stubborn refusal to call a special session, as he holds out for more federal relief, will cause more harm than good.”

• Tacoma News Tribune – “. . . there’s no question a special session of the Washington Legislature is in the best interest of the state . . . The state Legislature is a co-equal branch of government and balancing the budget is their fundamental job.”

• Vancouver Columbian – “To best deal with the coronavirus pandemic in Washington — and prepare for its aftermath — Gov. Jay Inslee must seek the input of the Legislature. The governor has waited far too long to call lawmakers to a special session.”

• Walla Walla Union Bulletin – “At the risk of sounding like a spokesperson for the Department of Redundancy Department, we again urge Inslee to call a special session so lawmakers can start getting this growing budget crisis under control.”

• Yakima Herald Republic – “Each day closer to the election will be even less convenient, and the budget gap will grow wider and wider. Inslee can’t wait until January to stop the fiscal hemorrhaging. Cuts to spending need to made as soon as possible to avert a disaster in 2021 and beyond.”

Bipartisan lawmakers also spoke about the need for a special session during WPC’s legislative panel discussion on August 19. Governors across the country, including in California, Oregon and Idaho, have already acted and called special sessions to allow lawmakers to address COVID-19 related policies and budget deficits.

– Jason Mercier is the Director of the Center for Government Reform at Washington Policy Center and is based in the Tri-Cities. He serves on the boards of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and Verify More, and was an advisor to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee. Jason is an ex-officio for the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce. In June 2010, former Governor Gregoire appointed Jason as WPC’s representative on her Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Panel.


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