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WA lawmaker: COVID keeping public from participating in political process

The Capitol Building in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

A special legislative session is likely not going to happen, so it will be a few weeks until the next legislative session in Olympia. But it’s going to look much different than it has in the past with much done remotely thanks to COVID-19, which has some significant implications for how the public will be able to interact with lawmakers.

Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss how he believes this will impact participation rights.

“It’s looking really bad, to be honest with you. I did not coin this phrase, obviously, but democracy dies in darkness, and it’s going to be pretty dark in Olympia this year,” he said. “Governor Inslee and the majority Democrats are doubling down on COVID martial law when it comes to the legislative session coming up. So all remote hearings are limiting the number of people who could speak on bills on the Senate floor, who could be there physically present to vote, locking down the buildings …”

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“It’s looking pretty draconian right now in terms of what’s going tohappen in Olympia and the peoples’ ability to be able to impact the process, which is the most important part of this whole thing,” he added.

Ericksen worries this will impact the types of voices that get heard in Olympia and who will be able to participate.

“Well, right now, I don’t think any of the public will be allowed in Olympia,” he said. “Committee hearings will be done remotely, whether it’s on Zoom, or whether it’s on Microsoft Teams, or whatever it is. So first off, you have to have a computer to be able to participate, you have to have high speed internet access to be able to participate, and even then, your ability to participate a significantly limited.”

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“So lobbyists, insiders — they’ll have access still, of course, but the general public will not have any ability really to participate in the process in Olympia that I can see,” Ericksen added. “They also are saying they’re going to limit the number of people who could be on the Senate floor at any given time — whether the number’s four, or whether the number’s five — so there could be no debate or discussion about the legislation that’s being brought forward. I think it’s really a recipe for disaster. But it’s what we’ve seen from Jay Inslee for the past 10 months, and it’s no longer emergencies, it’s martial law in Washington state.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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