Brown-backed bill would safely reopen Tri-Cities

Bipartisan measure would move all of Washington to Phase 2 of reopening plan

It’s time to safely reopen Washington, says the sponsors of a bipartisan bill that will receive a public hearing on Wednesday.

“Families are suffering,” said Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick and one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “Across the Tri-Cities, and across this state, there are family-owned restaurants that have either shut their doors permanently or may soon have to close. There are gym owners and employees who are struggling with how to keep their business afloat or provide food for their children after months of being closed down by the governor’s proclamations.

“And why? The science tells us that restaurants and gyms are responsible for less than 2 percent combined of all COVID-19 transmissions.

“This bill is about giving those employers, workers and families hope again.”

Senate Bill 5114 would move the entire state to “Phase 2” of the governor’s latest lockdown plan. Under Phase 2, restaurants would be allowed to partially reopen indoor dining under social-distancing protocols. Gyms and entertainment venues also could reopen, and other rules regarding public gatherings would be relaxed.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, and Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah. It had gained more than a dozen additional sponsors as of Friday.

Brown said reopening Washington is a priority for most of her constituents.

“For the past ten months my email inbox has been full of messages from people begging the Legislature – and pleading with me personally – to step in and help,” said Brown. “It is heartbreaking to hear what this pandemic and the governor’s shutdown orders have done to them. Wednesday’s hearing is their chance to speak to the entire Legislature and let them know exactly how they feel. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to be heard firsthand, share their stories and demand solutions.”

Brown pointed out that many Washingtonians may be confused about how to testify, given the new COVID-19 and security-related restrictions at the Capitol. Lawmakers recently voted to expand remote-testimony options, making it possible for residents to testify from the comfort of their offices or dining-room tables, she said.

“Since 2014, I have been working with leaders like former Columbia Basin College President Dr. Rich Cummins and Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center to expand the use of remote-testimony technology by the Senate,” Brown explained. “Now those efforts are paying off. You no longer need to go to a library or community college, but with a little preparation, you can testify from your own laptop or smart phone.

“This is your government, and we need to hear from you!”

The hearing on SB 5114 starts at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. To sign up to testify, click here, or use this link:

Those wishing to testify may sign up any time up to one hour before the hearing is scheduled to begin.