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WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, January 15, 2021

Governor Inslee sworn in for third consecutive term, vows a “new normal” for the people of the state - Senate Democrats pass measure to extend his emergency orders indefinitely

Governor Inslee took the oath of office for his third consecutive four-year term on Wednesday in the Capitol building, along with other state elected officials, wearing masks and physically distanced. Others, like Attorney General Ferguson who is also entering his third four-year term, were sworn in online. Governor Inslee is the first Washington governor to be elected for a third term since Republican Dan Evans in the 1970s.

Rather than delivering his inaugural address before the traditional assembly of lawmakers, state elected officials, and state supreme court justices, Governor Inslee presented his remarks in a pre-recorded 20-minute video posted online.

The governor's speech touched on economic recovery, education, homelessness and the need to overhaul the state's mental health system. He also declared his continued commitment to fighting climate change. ”We cannot let the short-term crisis of COVID-19 blind us to the long-term health cataclysm that is climate change,“ he said.

Governor Inslee also emphasized that Washingtonians should not expect their lives to return to normal after the COVID-19 epidemic is under control. “We are not going back to normal. We are going forward toward a new normal. We are on a path in this legislative session to a more just normal, a healthier normal. And we're not just talking about the pandemic.”

State lawmakers continue to introduce new bills this week at a brisk pace—nearly 500 so far, as Washington’s 105-day regular session gets underway in a mostly online format. Legislative actions, including floor debates, committee hearings, and public testimony are conducted remotely, using online tools in keeping with the restrictions on gatherings imposed by Governor Inslee’s emergency orders.

These restrictions are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, as Senate Democrats on Wednesday pushed through a measure that would extend all of the governor’s emergency proclamations indefinitely.

Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 8402 would continue the restrictions ordered by Governor Inslee until the governor declares an end to the state of emergency or the legislature repeals his orders.

The measure passed along straight party lines by 28-19 votes, with all Democrats voting “yes” and all Republicans voting “no.” Two senators were excused. The House, which is controlled by Democrats with a 57-41 majority, is expected to vote on the resolution later today, Friday.

During the debate on the measure—carried out remotely via online tools, Republicans brought up their concerns about extending the governor’s emergency orders indefinitely. Sen. Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake), who voted against the resolution, said in an interview with The Everett Herald that lawmakers came to Olympia to help the governor “work our way as a state, through the situation that we’re in with this pandemic. He’s been doing it all on his own.”

Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) also voted against the resolution. “We came to Olympia to be able to do the right thing,” he said. “Instead, the majority gives the governor continued dictatorial powers.”

A Republican proposal to extend the proclamations only until January 27th failed, along with an amendment to move each region in the state to Phase 2 of the Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery plan by January 18 before extending any proclamations.

WashingtonVotes.org is a free service provided by Washington Policy Center and is the go-to tracking tool to keep up with all the action in Olympia, especially during this mostly virtual session. Please check in often and follow us on Facebook and Twitter at #waleg.

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