5/27/21 | Olympia | by Ruth Peterson
The COVID “emergency” was over long ago, but Governor Inslee would like to hold on to power for a lot longer. How is that possible, and why is he doing it. I will try to answer this to my best ability. I have not perfected mind-reading, so I cannot speak to motives for sure, but here is how it appears to me.
- Background: RCW (Revised Code of WA which contains all of our laws) 43.06.220 contains the law that applies to emergency powers. This law was enacted in 1969 – my guess is that it was in reaction to possible war with the USSR during the cold war. But it’s been on the books for decades. The problem with this law is that it doesn’t specify a duration or a definition of when an emergency ends. It’s all up to the Governor. It gives the Governor broad powers which means he is pretty much a one-man show, as we’ve seen over the past year.
- Consequences of total power: The Governor has almost unlimited power under the emergency law. You may have heard people talk about the 4 corners of the Legislature (our elected representatives) being required to sign-off on his proclamations, but the proclamations they had say over were very limited. The actual emergency declaration and the shut-down are not proclamations they had any say in. Added to that, the Democrat majority this year, as their very first action, took away the power of the 4 corners on even the few proclamations they had some say in. This gave the Governor even more power.
- Situation on the ground right now: We still have COVID hanging around. I have friends and relatives with it at the current time. I’ve also lost friends and loved-ones, so I will not down-play the dangers of the virus. However, at the current time, we have 80% of our population over the age of 65 and 70% of those over 50 vaccinated with plenty of vaccine available for anyone who wants it. There is also a large percentage of those over 40 who have been vaccinated. A much greater percentage would be reported of all of these age groups, if they added in those who have had it. In our family, about 1/3 of my large crew have had it. The studies show that if you have had it, you have immunities to the virus – perhaps for life (new study by the UW). The risk is small at this point. The emergency is over. So why are we still requiring masks?
Here is where I go from facts to guesses: Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of people in this state that are cushioned by the Governor’s proclamations. The laws surrounding the unemployment program have been altered by proclamation to provide people with more money for much longer and under many more circumstances than is allowed by law. The Governor has changed these laws, not by properly going through the legislative process, but by the stroke of his pen. Once the “emergency” is over, those laws revert back to the way they were. Suddenly, thousands will have no income, because the shut-down also killed their business. How do we transition from flooding everyone with money (and don’t get me started on the unemployment nightmare) to having thousands with nothing? No job and no money. The blow-back will be enormous, and I believe the Governor knows that the blame will be placed at his feet.
Ditto for the eviction moratorium. Thousands of landlords – many with only a single home they are renting out – have been without rent money for over a year. The proclamations did not allow for eviction of non-paying tenants. Even the ones who were still working or getting a large income from unemployment. The legislature did make some changes to landlord laws which were horrible for landlords and will continue the hardships on them, but without the proclamation process, it will allow landlords a small measure of things they can do to keep from going under. When the proclamation goes away, those processes will begin, and people will find that they still owe the rent from the past year. I don’t think people understand exactly how many of those renters exist right now. Landlords will begin getting out of the landlord business by selling those homes, and the number of rentals will decrease further – raising the rental prices. If you thought finding a house to rent was hard before, just wait until the proclamations are gone and the cushions from hardship are removed. It will be much worse.
There are many more proclamations that allow our lives to be different. Tele-medicine is one item. Republicans have, for years, tried to make tele-medicine more available. Now by a stroke of a pen, it is more available. Those loosening of restrictions goes away once the proclamations are gone. There are other regulations on all sorts of businesses that have been changed by proclamation. When those go away, we have to change how we do business, yet again. All these difficulties will bring to light how much the Governor has done to manipulate how we live and do business.
Finally, there is the control over our actions. As most people know by now, the Governor and L&I have come up with rules that make our businesses become policemen when it comes to vaccines. L&I is requiring that businesses force their employees to show their vaccine card or sign an affidavit that they have had a vaccination. This is unconscionable. This wasn’t done through the legislative process, but by his direction. He has enjoyed total control over our lives for a year, and he’s not done yet. That’s why the emergency isn’t over.
I can only imagine how heady the feeling must be to have such power over every part of our lives. I can also see why he isn’t so anxious to give it up and get blow-back when people find out what he has done over the past year. My guess is he doesn’t want to give up this power in the first place, but the knowledge that thousands will suffer the consequences of his actions over the past year and will blame him is probably high on the list of why he won’t end the emergency. But do let his lack of willingness to give up the power fool anyone. We are over an emergency situation, but he won’t let go. Even the Democrats are starting to figure this out.
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