Gold domed capital building in Olympia, Washington, USA
Distant view of the gold dome capital building in Olympia, Washington, USA

Chapman’s News & Ideas State Legislature Should Have Stronger Oversight Role During Emergencies

Published in Seattle Times

In recent weeks, many citizens have written to me requesting that the Legislature take action to address the COVID-19 crisis. The reality is that the Legislature’s formal power to act in this crisis is limited; it is the governor who has broad authority during times of emergency. While legislators have oversight over some of the emergency orders issued so far, others, such as the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, do not require any legislative input or approval. As we look to the future, the Legislature must have a much stronger role during emergencies.

As state legislators during this pandemic, we find ourselves in a new role: Approving or denying the governor’s requests to extend the suspension of specific state statutes and regulations beyond his authorized period of 30 days. While the Legislature is not in session, the leaders of the state’s four caucuses — Speaker of the House, majority leader of the Senate, and minority leaders of the House and Senate — make these decisions with input from their caucuses. To date, legislators have acted to extend most, but not all, of Gov. Jay Inslee’s requests to waive statutes and regulations beyond 30 days.

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Hans Zeiger

Director, Chapman Center for Civic Leadership
Hans Zeiger served as the director of the Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership, leading the Chapman Fellows program. He serves in the Washington State Senate, representing the 25th Legislative District, covering central Pierce County. Hans was elected to the State House of Representatives in 2010 and reelected in 2012 and 2014, representing the 25th Legislative District. Hans was recognized as the co-recipient of the Gabrielle Giffords Award for Civility, he serves in the Washington Air National Guard, sits on the boards of the Washington State Historical Society, the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, and the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, and was a 2017 Leadership Fellow of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and a 2018 Rodel Fellow of the Aspen Institute. Hans graduated from Puyallup High School and holds a bachelor’s degree from Hillsdale College and a Masters degree in Public Policy from Pepperdine University.