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Amendment grants Washington state expanded powers during earthquake

Anchorage, Alaska was hit by a 7.0 quake late last year. (AP Photo)

It sounds like something that happens at the beginning of a Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movie, but a new Washington state amendment would grant the Legislature expanded powers in case of catastrophe, like an earthquake, for instance.

The amendment would update an existing law passed in 1962 during the Cold War, which stipulated the “continuity of governmental operations in periods of emergency resulting from enemy attack.” Resolution 8200 would add “catastrophic incidents” to that, so the government could continue to operate in that case as well, though some voters might enjoy the government being unable to operate for a little bit.

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Some of the powers include the ability to move the state capital, alter the requirements to elect or appoint legislators, and pass bills and fill vacancies, among other powers, reports The Spokesman Review.

For opponents, the expanded powers are defined too broadly, as is what exactly constitutes a catastrophic incident, which is not spelled out in detail.

“You would have to trust government to make these decisions with or without your input,” it says in the argument against the amendment, co-authored by Rep. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley. “We should demand a better proposal with clear definitions.”

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It’s been more than 300 years since Cascadia last quaked. The Cascadia subduction zone covers the offshore area where the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate pushes under the larger North American plate, and produces megathrust quakes every 300 to 600 years. Some experts believe it’s long overdue and has the potential to devastate Western Washington and generate a tsunami.

Whether voters in November also want the government to have expanded powers in that situation remains to be seen.

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