October 21, 2021

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Fit And Go Forward

Yakima County commissioners plan legal challenge to latest state COVID reopening plan | Local

Yakima County commissioners have unanimously approved another proclamation calling on Gov. Jay Inslee to step aside and let local authorities manage the spread of the coronavirus.

Commissioners say they also are working on a legal challenge to Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy and Roadmap to Recovery orders.

“Governor Inslee has abused his emergency powers to circumvent the checks and balances provided by the voice of the people through our duly elected representatives. We find Governor Inslee’s actions to be grossly unjust and indefensible in nature as to the crisis in hearts and homes that he has created which far exceeds the negative impact of COVID-19,” commissioners said in a news release announcing the proclamation.

Commissioners Ron Anderson, LaDon Linde and Amanda McKinney — all Republicans — signed the proclamation Monday and it is expected to receive formal approval during Tuesday’s business meeting.

It’s similar to one they approved Dec. 15. Commissioners again voiced a desire for local management of the virus’ spread in a news release responding to the Costco outbreak in Union Gap. Commissioners supported keeping the store open, but complained about other businesses impacted under Inslee’s shutdown order, such as restaurants, bars, gyms and the like.

Commissioners announced their second proclamation on the day Inslee signed his Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery proclamation.

Mike Faulk, Inslee’s deputy director of communications, last week said the Democratic governor hasn’t ignored elected officials, but needs to exercise his executive powers to swiftly enact plans intended to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“What you’re hearing is politics, plain and simple,” Faulk said. “The governor’s office has been in touch with and heard the concerns and ideas of local elected officials throughout this pandemic.”

McKinney, who took office in late November, said Inslee’s office may have heard from county officials early on, but not since she’s been office and none have had input on any response plans.

“We were not given the opportunity to contribute in any way to this document,” she said.

The proclamation declares that businesses that have shut down — such as restaurants, bars, and gyms — have done so unfairly and that they are not a leading source of the spread of the virus.

In their proclamation, commissioners called for local management of the COVID-19 spread rather than a “sweeping state proclamation” and asked Inslee to shift state authority and resources to respect and support local agencies.

The proclamation asks residents and businesses to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

It also calls for the Legislature to revise state law to require legislative approval of emergency declarations after 14 days.

Yakima Valley legislators and other conservatives also have voiced support for rolling back the governor’s emergency powers. Democrats in the Legislature have appeared less interested in making changes.

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said last week the governor has worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle and she’s comfortable with his executive powers.

But Senate Republican Floor Leader Shelly Short of Addy and House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm, both Republicans, disagreed, saying the governor should have some limits on powers vested under emergency declarations and that the Legislature should be involved in the extended shutdown orders.

“He has refused to allow us to be a part of that process and that is the thing we need to change,” Short said during a meeting with reporters on Thursday.

Faulk dismissed Yakima County’s proclamation as “inflammatory rhetoric unmoored from reality” after reviewing it Monday afternoon.

“This board is out of touch with basic realities of the pandemic and specifically how it has hurt their constituents,” he said. “They should follow the science, stop making vague threats of frivolous lawsuits, and commit to serving all of their residents.”

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