Open Safe, Open Now plan

2021 legislative session • March 5, 2021

Washington State House Republicans

Dear Friend:

We just concluded a long day of House floor action. State representatives have been on the House floor, voting on bills, nine out of the last ten days. And we will be back again tomorrow. 

While many bills have passed with bipartisan support, others have not. Here are some measures that passed after long debates and despite strong House Republican opposition:  

House Bill 1091 | Low-carbon fuel standard mandate 

  • Would increase the cost of gas and diesel without generating any new revenue for transportation projects, be bad for businesses and our economy, and offer little benefit to air quality. 
  • Passed 52-46. Referred to Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee.
  • Watch floor debate highlights.  

House Bill 1054 | Police tactics and equipment 

  • Would take away tools police officers rely on to de-escalate situations and avoid the need to use deadly force, and make the job of police officers even more dangerous.   
  • Passed 54-43. Referred to Senate Law and Justice Committee.  
  • Watch floor debate highlights

House Bill 1078 | Felon voting rights 

  • Would automatically restore felon voting rights before completed sentences, including for those who committed heinous violent and sexual offenses, which would be unfair to many crime victims and their families.  
  • Passed 57-41. Referred to Senate State Government and Elections Committee.
  • Watch floor debate highlights

Republican Open Safe, Open Now plan

The governor announced his “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” plan on January 5. Two months later, he has yet to identify Phase 3. We thought he might finally reveal something yesterday, but it did not happen. This is frustrating for many Washingtonians. 

In a news conference yesterday, Republicans offered yet another real solution: The Open Safe, Open Now plan. It respects local control and trusts people with their health and safety. 

Under our plan, all students in grades K-12 would immediately return to the classroom and school districts would be expected to implement safety protocols provided by the CDC. It would also allow hospitality businesses, indoor weddings, indoor religious services, and professional services to move to 50% capacity. This would help people get back to work. 

After a county operated under Phase 3 for three weeks, and if there was no significant spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, it could move to Phase 4. That would allow the activities noted above to move to 100% capacity. You can find more details here.  

The governor's predictable response 

When asked about our plan, the governor -- predictably -- said something about not wanting to go the way of Texas. But that is not what Republicans proposed. We believe people should continue to take precautions, including wearing a mask. I made this clear in my comments yesterday and video today. What we proposed is similar to what the Democratic governor in Connecticut just announced for his state.  

The governor's spokesman also called our plan, "political rhetoric with bullet points.” While our plan is simple and practical, by design, it is backed by a comprehensive operating budget proposal and COVID-19 relief package. I also think Washingtonians want clarity and transparency, a point the Tri-City Herald editorial board made in this piece

Response to Washington Supreme Court ruling 

Last week, I discussed the surprising Washington Supreme Court ruling that struck down our state's felony drug possession law. A thoughtful reader emailed me to say she believed I had portrayed this ruling to mean drugs had been legalized in our state. This was not my intent. 

Drugs have not been legalized. However, the possession of drugs has been decriminalized due to this ruling. And everyone agrees this will have major implications for public safety and public health across our state. 

This should not be a partisan issue, but we may see different approaches to address it. House Republicans are working on a few pieces of legislation, including a bill that would require that a person “knowingly” possess the drugs to be guilty of the offense. By adding the word “knowingly” before possess, the measure would address the court’s issue and reinstate the law against possession of drugs. I will provide bill numbers when they are available. 

As always, I welcome your feedback. 


Rep. J.T. Wilcox
House Republican Leader
(360) 786-7912