Lawmakers continue to call for a special session


July 30, 2020

Members of the forgotten branch of government during the COVID pandemic, the legislative branch, continue to make their voices heard concerning the need for a special session. Sen. John Braun, ranking member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, sent this letter on July 13 to his fellow lawmakers:

“I write to you deeply concerned that we are ceding our role too easily to the executive branch. The state constitution explicitly endows our branch with the legislative authority. It is we who have the power to make laws and spend funds. It is a power that we should carefully and jealously guard. The executive is charged with a different role: enforcing the laws. (And the judicial branch with interpreting those laws.) Checks and balances. Distinct spheres. This was a critical insight of both our federal and state founders in writing the constitutions. It is this framework that we swore to uphold. It is a framework we are presently shirking.”

Sen. Braun also notes: “In our absence, the state budget is in a projected multibillion-dollar deficit with an executive branch that can only wield the blunt instrument of across-the-board reductions to address it.”

We noted this legal budget requirement for the Governor in our blog post yesterday. Many of Sen. Braun’s colleagues have also spoken on the need for a special session:

• “Sullivan rightly wanted the Legislature to convene for a budget-focused special session before a new fiscal year –and costly programs–started up July 1, and for scheduled pay raises for state workers to be canceled. Because that advice wasn’t followed, the Legislature may need to make even deeper cuts when it does convene.”

• “As for the looming state budget deficit, Ortiz-Self is undaunted. She is disappointed Gov. Jay Inslee is not calling the Legislature into special session so lawmakers could ‘slow the bleeding’ of plummeting state revenues.”

• “Peterson disagrees with Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent decision not to call the Legislature back for a special session so lawmakers could get started combing through the budget and crafting solutions.”

• “A self-described ‘pragmatic progressive,’ Davis is disappointed Gov. Jay Inslee did not call the Legislature back into special session so lawmakers could tackle the looming budget crisis sooner, staving off the need for bigger cuts later.”

•Rep. Mike Chapman: “It’s not every day I’m quoted in the @TriCityHerald but I’m proud to be part of a growing bi-partisan consensus that the Legislature should be called back into special session by the Governor.”

The State Treasurer also agrees that the legislature needs to act in a special session to balance the budget:

“Delaying the resolution of the budget issues that were brought on by the pandemic will only result in adopting more drastic measures in the future that could have been lessened by taking action today. Responding to financial situations as they arise is just good fiscal policy and financial management. I believe this is a huge mistake that will be regretted. We have a precedence of the legislature doing the exact opposite in the 2009 financial crisis. Drastic times require drastic measures. Also, executive orders should only be exercised for a limited time until legislative action could have been taken. The legislature appears to be forfeiting this opportunity.”

Why does this matter? Sen. Braun summed it up best when closing his July 13 letter to lawmakers:

“We now find ourselves five months into this form of government, with deafening legislative silence–and apparent contemplation among legislators for continued silence until January. That should be unacceptable to all of us. It is time to weigh in and do our constitutional duty.”


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