Where’s the Emergency?

Published July 1, 2005

The Washington state legislature’s intentional use of emergency clauses to avoid citizen initiatives became clear in the following exchange between State Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside) and State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent). It occurred on January 27 at a Senate hearing concerning the addition of an emergency clause to SB 5097, requiring that 15 percent of total labor hours on state public works projects estimated to cost $1 million or more be performed by apprentices:

Senator Honeyford: “If it’s already in existence, then what is the emergency? I see nothing here that’s for the public health, safety, peace, support of state government. It’s already in existence, so I think we abuse the emergency clause thing, and I think this is another example.”

Senator Keiser: “It’s unfortunate, but the legislative intent has been several times revoked by actions following the legislature’s adjournment through various devices that are now available. I think if we don’t have an emergency clause on controversial bills like this, that we will find the same kind of practice being utilized, and I think we need to make, as a legislature, our intent not only clear, but effective.”

Senator Honeyford: “With that discussion, it seems like then that this emergency clause is to abrogate, I guess, the rights of citizens to bring some further actions if they’re opposing this, and I think that is wrong when we shut out the citizens from the process.”

— Jason Mercier