Far more important than agenda-driven bills now under consideration by Legislature
OLYMPIA – A huge turnout for a Senate hearing on a bill to reopen shuttered restaurants, gyms and other businesses demonstrates economic recovery ought to be the Legislature’s top priority, says Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg.
Some 1,620 people signed in Wednesday for a hearing on Senate Bill 5114, a measure that would move all of Washington to “Phase 2” of its COVID lockdown plan. The move would allow restaurants to resume indoor dining, reopen gyms and entertainment venues, and relax other restrictions. Social-distancing protocols would be maintained.
Dozier noted 93 percent of those who signed in favored the bill.
“When this many people come forward, the Legislature needs to listen,” Dozier said. “The people are telling us they need to get back to work.
“Our colleagues in the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate are eager to take votes this year on issues driven by an urban political agenda – on an income tax, cap and trade, proposals to artificially increase gas prices, and other ideas that will be hard for the people of Washington to swallow.
“These other issues are a sideshow, as far as the people are concerned. Our COVID economic shutdown has driven unemployment to record levels. The snarl with unemployment checks shows the state is unable to cope. We have businesses closing for good and idled workers wondering how they will put food on the table.
“This is the issue we need to deal with. This is an emergency. The sooner the Senate takes a vote on this bill, the better.”
Dozier, who took office when the Legislature began its 2021 session Jan. 11, has already taken a leading role on the issue. Last week he offered an amendment to a resolution on the Senate floor that also would have moved the state to Phase 2.
The proposals address the central problem with the state’s phased-lockdown plan. The criteria are so stringent that it could be many months before many small businesses are allowed to reopen. Yet business owners demonstrated they could operate safely during their brief respite last summer and fall, Dozier said.
During Wednesday’s hearing on SB 5114 in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee, restaurateurs, gym operators, bowling-alley owners and others testified that they have been pushed to the brink by months of no income and bills that keep piling up. They complained that the state’s arbitrary restrictions are based more on guesswork than science. Washington is one of just five states that continues to prohibit restaurant indoor dining.
“This is coming from every part of the state,” Dozier said. “Today the Legislature heard from people everywhere, from Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, Bellingham, Vancouver and Kennewick. I hope the Democratic majority will permit a vote in committee and allow this important bill to advance to the Senate floor. This isn’t like the income tax. This is something the people actually want us to do.”