In first speech, Dozier leads fight to reopen restaurants, gyms, entertainment venues

Democrats reject proposal, vote to extend emergency proclamations indefinitely


OLYMPIA – In his first speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, led an effort by Senate Republicans to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions that have forced the closure of restaurants, entertainment venues and gymnasiums across the state.

Majority Democrats in the Senate shot it down, and passed a resolution extending Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency orders indefinitely. Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402 now goes to the House for consideration.

Dozier, newly elected to represent Washington’s 16th Legislative District, said the state’s on-again, off-again lockdown orders are forcing small businesses to fight for survival. He offered an amendment to the resolution that would have moved all regions of the state to Phase 2 of the state’s lockdown plan. Under Phase 2, restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms would be allowed to reopen, using social-distancing precautions.

The amendment was rejected on a caucus-line vote of 27-19. All members of the Senate Republican Caucus voted in favor.

“Businesses everywhere are being pushed to the brink by lockdown orders that are far more stringent than needed,” Dozier said. “During the brief respite we had this summer and fall, they proved they can operate safely while maintaining social distancing protocols. This second round of state-ordered closures has been devastating.

“The longer we wait, the more businesses we will lose for good. It’s time we get them reopened and people back to work.”

Dozier’s amendment launched a 45-minute debate on the Senate floor. Republicans noted that Washington is one of only three states that continues to ban indoor dining.

In his remarks, Dozier described the experiences of his sister, Cindy Stockton, who operated two restaurants in the Maple Valley area of King County with her husband. Already the closures have forced them to sell one, while the other goes deeper into the red every month. The stress triggered a heart ailment that forced Stockton’s hospitalization.

“This story has special meaning for me, because Cindy is my sister,” Dozier said. “But I am hearing stories like these from across my district and throughout the state. People are anxious. As legislators, we have a responsibility to listen to the people and voice their concerns. Yet the resolution approved by the Senate gives all decision-making authority to the governor. The people deserve a voice in this, too.”