ISSAQUAH, Wash. – A bill circling in Olympia aims to circumvent Governor Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery plan that regulates which business can open and when amid an ongoing pandemic.
The legislation would push businesses across the state into Phase 2, and allow most restaurants, gyms, theaters and others, which follow strict guidelines to reopen before the current phased restrictions.
Essentially, SB 5114 empowers legislators to determine when businesses can reopen instead of the emergency powers granted to the Governor.
While the legislation has gathered a lot of support from the business community and elsewhere, opponents worry it could backfire.
“We have to do this indoors, we can’t do this outdoors,” said business owner Danielle Miller who owns Hot Yoga Experience.
The studio is in Issaquah and is currently open to a very small number of customers, said Miller. Two other locations in East King County have remained closed since the onset of the pandemic and Miller says the financial impact has been immense.
“I have taken on over $500,000 in loans to try to help us during this time just to get us through,” Miller said Wednesday during a legislative hearing.
The bill has bipartisan support and sponsors say it would allow businesses currently locked down to reopen safely. More than 1400 people signed up to speak up.
“Please get us open,” said Brian McMenamin, co-founder of the iconic brewpub chain that shares his name.
His company recently opened McMenamin’s Elk Lodge in Tacoma. The facility is one of the company’s latest additions that operates in Oregon and Washington states. Prior to the pandemic more than 3,000 people worked for the company, but that number is much lower today.
“Obviously we’ve been decimated,” said McMenamin. “We’re down to probably a little over one thousand by this point.”
Many who shared testimony with legislators supported the bill, but others worry the legislation ignores science and endangers healthcare workers.
“If we open the state too early, it will open the floodgates to hospitals and overwhelm me and coworkers,” said Kat Wood.
Millers says she has been following all health guidelines. Her Issaquah studio is open but can only support a small number of clients at once. She hopes SB5114 would put hers and other businesses on a level playing field.
“I just want to be trusted to be able to do that, to provide that safe place for people,’ she said.
In a statement, Governor Inslee’s office said the debate over the proposed legislation needs to consider unintended consequences and how it may complicate the state’s ability to respond to disasters,
The statement also insists the governor has used his authority appropriately, and it has saved lives.