Update on businesses reopening and limiting the governor's powers

Sen. Short Banner

February 1, 2021

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As we continue to anticipate what the things will look like in the near future, I know many parents are eagerly waiting for a time when kids will be back in the classroom.

At a news conference this week, Governor Inslee finally stated what we have been saying for months now……..we can begin reopening our schools with proper safety and hygiene precautions; the mixed messaging coming from many at the state level that has occurred over the last many months has been frustrating and counter-productive. I continue to have confidence in our local schools’ ability to make decisions that keep students, teachers, and staff as safe as possible. 

One way we can offer consistency at the state level is by enacting Senate Bill 5037 – which I mentioned in my last newsletter. This bill would establish transparent metrics for reopening schools and allow for in-person learning in certain circumstances. I believe it is time for the legislature to pass this bill and get our students back in the classroom as quickly and as safely as possible.

I’m here for you!

As we continue working remotely this year, please remember that your participation in the legislative process is more important than ever to ensure that the legislature keeps “of the people” front and center in its decision-making. If there is anything I can do to help you participate, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached by phone at (360) 786-7612 and by email at Shelly.Short@leg.wa.gov.




Update on reopening restaurants and gyms

Over the past few weeks, I shared information with you on the efforts to pass Senate Bill 5114 which would allow all businesses affected by the governor’s current shutdowns to reopen safely and immediately under the standards of Phase 2. Given the extraordinary circumstances and amid the every-changing whims of the Governor, I made a motion on the Senate floor on Wednesday to pull this bill from committee for immediate action by the entire Senate. Through no fault of their own, and without supporting scientific data, our businesses have remained closed since mid-November. Family owned businesses and job creators in our communities across the state are hanging on by a thread; they can’t wait, and neither can their employees.  They are fully capable of opening and working safely as have been they doing for the past 10 months. To watch my floor remarks, click here. Unfortunately, the Democratic majority disagreed and my motion to bring SB 5114 to the floor failed.

On Thursday, we learned that the governor is loosening shutdown restrictions. While I am glad to see that some businesses will be able to reopen, many can’t wait week-to-week to see what metric he’ll use next to determine their fate. Frankly, our state has one of the lowest rates of infection in the country and our businesses should be allowed to reopen. While it is critical to ensure our healthcare system continues to function and not become overwhelmed and vaccines get distributed to those who want them, the myriad of effects of this latest shutdown is unduly stressful on families, employees, children, businesses and communities.


Governor’s powers – more call for limited authority

As I mentioned previously, I have cosponsored Senate Bill 5039 which would require all gubernatorial emergency orders to be approved by the legislature after thirty days. This bill would not prevent the governor from issuing proclamations, but it would involve lawmakers in the process.

Since this bill’s introduction, the call for the governor’s powers to be limited has only grown louder. Last week, The News Tribune’s Editorial Board released their opinion on the governor having too much authority stating:

 “The Legislature now has a chance to balance the scales, at least somewhat. For the next three months, Washington’s 49 senators and 98 representatives can reassert their status as a co-equal branch of government, no longer sidelined by a governor who wouldn’t call a special session as the public-health crisis dragged on last year.

“They owe it to voters and the constitution to uphold the separation of powers. Both chambers are controlled by Inslee’s fellow Democrats, however, so it’s unclear how far they’re willing to go — and how much backbone they’re willing to show.”

Click here to read the full article.

Additionally, 24th District legislators Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) and Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) released a statement calling on the governor to use consistent metrics for reopening the state’s economy and said:

“Gov. Inslee’s recent change to the Roadmap to Recovery has left Clallam and Jefferson counties at a standstill for no good reason. This new plan relies on inconsistent metrics and an overly broad, regional approach for decision-making that does not reward the citizens and businesses in Clallam and Jefferson who have faithfully complied with the governor’s orders.

“This regional approach takes away local input and decisions and ignores local health officer’s science-based knowledge. Transmission and case-rate metrics in Clallam and Jefferson counties prove we have worked well to control the COVID-19 pandemic and have a firm grasp on this situation. However, when grouped with widely dissimilar counties in an arbitrarily drawn region, our success is ignored.”

To read their full statement, click here.

It is time for the legislature to act now and limit the governor’s authority during this pandemic and future emergencies. We must enact Senate Bill 5039 now.


Short with Honeyford


Bills I’m sponsoring this year

Here are a few bills I’ve sponsored and cosponsored this year that are making their way through the legislature.

Senate Bill 5275 would create more opportunity for more intense rural development in eastern Washington. This bill would give these rural communities modest, but currently non-existent, flexibility in development planning which could allow housing and small business opportunities reflecting local character.

Senate Bill 5314 provides a consistent definition for best available science and allows local governments to retain expert witnesses in reviews before the growth management hearings board.  Because state agencies are given such deference in appeals proceedings and there can be no witnesses brought forward by local governments, the definition offers a measure of protection in terms of the information agencies can use to justify its positions.  This bill also gives greater deference to people in local communities when it comes to the appeal process.  This bill would prevent groups like “Futurewise” from forcing its will upon our communities. 

Senate Bill 5168 would require the Department of Commerce analyze and offer an advisory opinion, if requested by a utility company, on whether a proposed electric generation project or energy transformation project would qualify under the Clean Energy Transformation Act. Because of the new regulations on renewable energy, it is incumbent to have a process in place to minimize the risks to local ratepayers before utility companies take on a project.

 Senate Bill 5359 would direct motor vehicle sales tax revenue go into the transportation fund instead of currently going into the state’s general fund. Adding additional funds from the vehicle sales tax would boost this account without raising taxes and allow important transportation projects to be constructed!

Senate Bill 5316 would require legislative oversight before the governor could spend unanticipated revenue of $5 million or more, or revenue less than $5 million when meeting certain criteria. Last year, our governor was able to solely spend the federal dollars our state received to address the COVID-19 pandemic however he saw fit -- with no involvement of the legislature. This bill would ensure that the constitutionally created branch of government responsible for budgeting (the legislature) would be involved.  


Participating in YOUR state government

Since most of this session will be conducted online, here is some information on how you can get involved:

Watch a legislative hearing - https://www.tvw.org/

Testify in a committee - https://app.leg.wa.gov/csiremote

Comment on a bill - https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/

I look forward to communicating with you during session.  It is an incredible privilege to serve as your state senator and be your voice. If you need anything at all, my office is here for you.