Abbarno Urges Committee to Hold Hearing on Emergency Powers Reform Bill


State Rep. Peter Abbarno released a statement on Friday urging the chair of the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee, Bill Ramos, D-Issaquah, to schedule a public hearing on House Bill 1535, an emergency powers reform bill he is sponsoring with his colleague in the state House, Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima. 

Under HB 1535, the Legislature would be allowed to pass a concurrent resolution declaring the termination of a state of emergency or, if the Legislature is not in session, a state of emergency may be ended or extended by the unanimous agreement of the four legislative leaders. Additionally, a state of emergency would expire 60 days after being signed by the governor unless the Legislature extends it, which it may do by calling itself into special session. The governor would also be prohibited from reinstating a state of emergency after it has expired.

According to Abbarno, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a lack of sufficient limitations on the governor’s emergency powers.

"Washington is a diverse state, full of people from different backgrounds with unique perspectives. To cast that all aside during an emergency and embrace what is effectively the rule of one person over the whole state is to betray the basic values we hold dear as Washingtonians. The residents of this state want balance and accountability in their government,” Abbarno said. 

In his statement, Abbarno criticized Ramos for spending time on jail-based voting legislation while a key committee deadline approaches on Feb. 17.

"Eventually, the memory of the pandemic will fade away, along with the important lessons we learned. We cannot allow history to repeat itself. We owe it to future generations to find the right balance between the executive's ability to deal with emergencies and proper oversight from the Legislature. Let's come together as Washingtonians this session, regardless of party, and do our job as legislators," Abbarno said.