July 30, 2020
Gov. Jay Inslee may order quarantines and business shutdowns, but he cannot enforce them.
In agreeing with that argument — presented by attorneys for the governor — U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle ruled last Friday that Gov. Inslee cannot be sued for the “unconstitutional” quarantine of healthy residents, shutdown of otherwise viable businesses or mask mandates. According to the judge, state officials can only be sued if they are connected to enforcement of an allegedly unconstitutional mandate.
According to the governor’s attorneys, health officials and other bureaucrats and agencies enforce his orders. Indeed, Gov. Inslee has called on tattletale residents to report violations to the state Attorney General’s Office. He’s said the state Department of Labor and Industries will enforce mandates on businesses. And he’s directed residents to contact local health officers, law enforcement and others for enforcement actions.
The governor has been sure to distance himself from any enforcement. And in doing so, he’s insulated himself from being sued for violating the constitutional rights of state residents.
Because the governor cannot be held accountable, the federal judge declined to issue injunctions ending Inslee’s mandates. He also refused to issue any injunctions preventing Gov. Inslee to enter more.
While the plaintiffs in the aforementioned federal lawsuit have until this Friday to appeal, such an effort is likely to fail to pass muster as similar arguments have insulated governors being sued in other states, as well.
So, as of today, we are saddled with a governor who can issue coronavirus-related mandates, but cannot be held accountable — even if they are unconstitutional. And we’re left with a mounting number of mandates that overzealous bureaucrats can use to exact their toll from residents and businesses.
It’s not likely to end anytime soon.
Business owner and former state Rep. Cary Condotta, R-Wenatchee, might have the answer. But it won’t happen overnight.
Condotta recently started collecting signatures statewide for Initiative 1114, a measure that would limit the governor’s emergency declarations to a maximum of 14 days, unless the Legislature votes to extend such a declaration. He’s calling it the Emergency Powers Act.
Condotta has launched Restore Washington to put an end to Gov. Inslee’s assault on local businesses and residents in the name of coronavirus. To move his measure forward, Condotta needs the valid signatures of 259,622 registered signatures to compel the Legislature to take up the 14-day limit when it convenes in January.
With enough signatures, I-1114 would require an actual vote of the Legislature to extend an order passed 14 days, thereby ending the so-called “four corners” from making a decision alone.
The “four corners” are the majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate. Currently, they include Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane; Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville; Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, and Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm. They have approved the extension of several of the governor’s emergency orders.
But under existing state law, they do not have a say on the actual emergency declaration. So, under existing statutes, the governor could extend coronavirus measures in perpetuity, or at least until he’s voted out of office.
In addition to requiring a full vote of the Legislature, the measure would reduce any “violations” of emergency orders to mere misdemeanors.
Limiting the governor’s sole powers to 14 days makes sense. Ending bureaucratic control of our lives for months on end makes sense.
If you want to resume control of your own life and business, find a I-1114 petition location and sign on.
— Roger Harnack is the publisher of Free Press Publishing. Email him at