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Braun says new Senate rules severely limit access to democracy

OLYMPIA, WASH., JANUARY 11, 2021 – After an historic day in the Washington State Legislature where changes to the rules were adopted to allow for the 2021 Legislative Session to continue remotely, Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released a statement.

Braun said he’s disappointed that majority Democrats refused to bend on new Senate operating rules for the 2021 legislative session that will severely restrict public access to lawmakers and the legislative process.

“No one disputes that this session has to be conducted differently because of the pandemic, but the rules put in place today seem to have been written months ago when Republican lawmakers still hoped the governor would see the wisdom of having a special session to get a head-start on pandemic relief for Washington families and employers. Whether we’re seeing more COVID cases or new strains of the virus here in January is not so much the point – the Legislature does its work in big, boxy buildings, we know more about the virus than ever, and the same precautions that have been effective for months in other big-box establishments or even small retail outlets can work here.

“Republicans offered reasonable proposals to make this legislative session much more transparent and accessible, without creating unnecessary health risks. We were looking for ways to get to ‘yes’ on giving folks across this great state more opportunity to have their different viewpoints heard. For months the people of our state have had to deal with a form of government they didn’t recognize, and now they’re getting a second dose with a lawmaking process that may lead some to question the legitimacy of the decisions that are made.

“Our Democrat colleagues view access to democracy as being about voter registration. To Republicans it’s also about enabling public participation after the elections are over, when the real work of making policy begins. The majority tried to make the case today that rules to reduce public access are somehow about increasing transparency, but I doubt that will get past the people.”

Senate Resolution adopted

Adopting the Senate’s emergency parliamentary rules of the sixty-seventh legislature was sponsored by Senator Marko Liias, representing Lynnwood, Mukilteo, South Everett and Edmonds. Senate Resolution 8601 passed with 28 yeas and 18 nays. Below are some of the resolution’s highlights:

  • During any roll call vote, members will record their 16 vote using the remote voting system.
  • Senators voting on the Senate floor must maintain at least six feet of distance from one another.
  • Senate members and employees must wear a mask in all 15 Senate buildings.
  • No member or employee may escort a member of the public into Senate buildings.
  • All committee and floor proceedings will be broadcast to 32 the public via streaming or televised platforms.
  • The introduction of title-only bills is prohibited.
  • Electronic or scanned signatures are authorized in place 28 of any physical signatures
  • All committees will meet remotely.
  • Committee voting will be done through recorded roll call 19 votes with the results transmitted to the Secretary of the 20 Senate via electronic means.

Amendments not adopted

  • Not Adopted: Senate Republican Floor Leader Shelly Short, R-Addy, proposed an amendment that would allow more public participation in the legislative process through the public’s proper use of masks and social distancing. (SR 8601, S AMD 1)
  • Not Adopted: Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, proposed an amendment to allow all Senators to make motions so that they can adequately represent the people who elected them. (SR 8601, S AMD 2)
  • Not Adopted: Sen. Fortunato, R-Auburn, offered an amendment to increase Senators’ in-person participation by allowing them to speak and vote from Senate galleries. (SR 8601, S AMD 3)
  • Not Adopted: Sen. Ericksen, R-Ferndale, proposed a Senate Resolution to convene a 30-day special session now, waiting to convene a full 105-day session until the public health situation will allow full public access. (SCR 8400)

House Bill Adopted

Adopting the House’s emergency parliamentary rules of the sixty-seventh legislature was sponsored by Senator Pat Sullivan, representing Federal Way, Auburn, Tukwila and Covington. House Resolution 4600 passed with 54 yeas and 39 nays.

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