GOP, Sen. Short renew push for special session

RaeLynn Ricarte

Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, and other GOP leaders have renewed their push for a special session of the Washington Legislature to address public health, safety, education and budget concerns tied to the COVID-19 crisis.

Getting schools in the state fully opened while making sure students and staff remain safe is paramount because many families, and students themselves, are struggling with part-time attendance or only remote learning, said Short.

Mental health and medical professionals are worried that isolation is leading to higher rates of anxiety and depression among youth and greater stress for single parent households and those with two working parents, she said.

“We should be having a conversation right now about what the needs are and where resources are lacking — not waiting until next year’s regular session,” said Short.

Schools are worried about the lack of liability protection if they reopen all classrooms and then have a COVID-19 outbreak, which is another issue the Legislature needs to address, she said. “That’s something we can change.”

In addition, Short said school administrators are receiving mixed-messages and ever-changing guidelines from several different state agencies, and there needs to be one set of clear guidelines, with flexibility allowed at the local level to meet the unique needs of that area.

“Schools haven’t been given true local control to figure that our because of state interference,” she said.

Convening the Legislature will be reassuring for the people who elected leaders to represent their interests, and for business owners who need to know that sound policies are being set to help them survive.

For example, Short said the unemployment trust fund needs to be replenished without laying that tax burden on businesses that have already been harmed by government-mandated shutdowns and operational reductions. Inslee mandated these closures to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democratically-controlled Legislature did not respond to calls by Republicans to hold the special session last summer when revenue forecasts showed a looming $9 billion budget deficit over a four-year period.

The deficit was tied to the economic downturn that followed enactment of Inslee’s directives. The deficit forecast has been revised downward to about $4 billion, but Short said with state spending at an all-time high, that is still a huge amount of money to cut from the state’s $53 billion biennial budget.

Read the full story in the Oct. 28 edition of the Deer Park Tribune.