Democratic Senator sponsors bill limiting emergency powers; Inslee adamantly against it

Jan 13, 2023, 3:41 PM
Gov. Jay Inslee and staff practice the governor's "State of the State" address a few days prior to its delivery. (Photo courtesy of The Office of Governor Jay Inslee)
(Photo courtesy of The Office of Governor Jay Inslee)

A bipartisan group in Olympia wants to limit the governor’s power during an emergency.

Since the legislative session began earlier this year, the Bipartisan Approach to Legislative Authority Necessary in Continuing Emergencies Act — BALANCE — has been wanting to establish legislative oversight over the governor.

The bill, Senate Bill 5063, was sponsored by Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, and Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah.

“Is the bill dead or alive?” asked Brandi Kruse on KIRO Newsradio.

“It’s been a frustrating process. Let’s leave it at that,” replied Mullet. “I think the Governor has put a lot of political capital into trying to keep any bills that would limit his emergency power authority from gaining traction during the legislative session. Not just this one, the same in the previous sessions as well. And it appears we’ve had a similar dynamic work. I think there’s been pressure to not even hear the bill. So it’s frustrating.”

Senate Bill 5063 addresses the controversy around Gov. Jay Inslee and the extended stay his emergency powers had once they were declared.

Back in Sept. 2022, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that his emergency powers will end on October 31. He held those powers for 920 days.

“Yes, the governor is ‘relinquishing’ his emergency powers the week before the Nov. 8 election,” the late Dori Monson said on The Dori Monson Show Sept. 8, 2022. “But it’s nothing to celebrate. It’s despicable, transparent – and oh, so Jay Inslee.”

Dori: No surprise, Inslee giving up emergency powers right before general election

Mullet told Kruse about a much weaker version of the bill last year that couldn’t get passed in the House, as the governor made it clear he would veto it.

“So I think people on the Senate side are saying if a weaker version couldn’t get to the finish line last year, is it worth even hearing the bill this time around?” Mullet said. “And my counter-argument to that is, we need to have this public policy discussion. Democrats, my colleagues, I say they have to put the shoe on the other foot and pretend there is a Republican in the governor’s mansion, would they be comfortable if the same things were happening?”

First elected to the Senate in 2012, Mullet is currently the Vice Chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, where he also serves as the leader of the Senate’s capital budget team.

“Do you anticipate any continued retribution this session because of your support of emergency power reform?” asked Kruse.

“To be honest, I do,” Mullet replied. “I think that’s been kind of frustrating as well.”

Tax relief, drug possession among topics debated with WA Legislature back in session

In 2020, Inslee publicly supported Ingrid Anderson, a progressive candidate challenging Mullet for his seat in King County’s 5th Legislative District.

But despite a tenuous relationship with fellow Democrat Inslee, Mullet has refused to change his political party affiliation.

“There’s a lot of democratic values that I feel really strongly about when it comes to women’s choice and the environment and issues around gay rights and things like that,” Mullet said. “Those are core values that I live and breathe. That’s really important to me, but it doesn’t mean I’m not willing to speak up when I can see their own Democratic governors doing things that I don’t think the majority of residents support.”

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Democratic Senator sponsors bill limiting emergency powers; Inslee adamantly against it