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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this email finds you and your family healthy.

During his May 1 press briefing, Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Department of Health announced the extension of the “stay home, stay healthy” order for another month, until May 31. During this briefing, he also introduced his “plan” to get our economy restarted.

Let it be known that as the governor addresses the state in these briefings, he continues to thank Washingtonians for flattening the curve and doing our part in combating this virus. He also says that most Washingtonians are onboard with his “plans” to reopen our state. I believe the governor is out of touch with what most Washingtonians want. Being isolated in our homes when we are not sick, having the decisions made for us on what businesses the government feel are essential versus non-essential, and not having the ability to go to work and provide for our families is not what most Washingtonians want.

It is also important for you to understand that the governor has failed to brief and communicate with all four corners of the Legislature for over two weeks on anything relating to the current COVID-19 response. He is practicing extreme overreach by making major decisions on behalf of every Washingtonian without involving the full legislative branch. We were completely left in the dark about his intentions to extend the “stay home, stay healthy” order for at least another month, or that he even had a “plan” to move things forward.

I want you to know that my Republican colleagues and I are doing everything we can to restart our economy, get you back to work, and bring back normalcy to our state. It is very difficult for us to even have a voice when the governor continues to hold back information and not communicate with us.

There is more than “his plan” on the table to get Washington state back to work.

But, first, let's talk about the governor's plan. It is a four-phased, data-driven approach. All reopening activities will depend on continued success in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and meeting four capabilities including:

  1. Health care system readiness
  2. Testing capacity
  3. Ability to do contact investigations
  4. Ability to protect high-risk populations

Currently, we are in Phase 1. The governor has already allowed some construction to resume as well as reopening of some recreational activities including day use at state parks, playing golf, fishing and hunting starting May 5. Officials are working with industries to develop new protocols that could soon allow for retail curbside pickup, car washes, landscaping and house cleaning services, and drive-in spiritual services with one household per vehicle. 

My colleagues and I have been fighting for these areas to reopen and stay open for weeks. We are actually one of the only states in the country that had this types of industries and recreational activities shut down to begin with. We have submitted letters to his office, our constituents have protested statewide, and many of these businesses have had plans in place to prove they could resume business safely. The opening and inclusion of these businesses, and outdoor recreational activities in Phase 1 of his plan are not victories and shows that the other phases will probably take weeks, if not months, to implement on the backs of those that can no longer afford it. I do not have much faith that the other three phases will happen timely and actually benefit everyone who is tremendously struggling right now.

Per the governor's order, when the COVID-19 burden is lower, continues a downward decline, and the four capabilities described above are met, he will then move the state into Phase 2. I'm assuming the same standards will apply to Phase 3 and 4, even though we have not been given clear direction on where those phases land on any timeline.

Phase 2: Additional expansions of outdoor recreation activities would be allowed, as well as small gatherings of five or fewer people, new construction and in-store retail purchases with health restrictions. Barber shops and salons could reopen. Restaurants could reopen with 50% capacity and table size no larger than five. Some professional services and offices could open up as well, even though teleworking would remain strongly encouraged. Pet care services including grooming could resume.

Phase 3:  Gatherings of 50 people or less, including sports activities, would be allowed, and non-essential travel could resume. Restaurants could move up to 75% capacity and tables up to 10 people, and bars at 25% capacity; gyms and movie theaters could reopen at 50% capacity; retail, libraries, museums and government buildings could reopen. Recreational facilities like pools could open at 50% capacity. Nightclubs and entertainment venues would still not be able to reopen.

Phase 4: Would involve resuming the majority of public interactions. Gatherings of more than 50 people would be allowed, but still while practicing physical distancing.

Where HIS plan does have more specifics than anything we have seen from him in weeks, it still does not go far enough to give Washingtonians the security you need to show the state truly is going to reopen and start the process to rebuild businesses, our economy, and overall way of life.

I've heard from many of you asking what my colleagues and I have been doing in response to the governor's actions. Some have even asked why we have not brought any plans of our own forward to help get Washington back to work.

The fact is Republicans have brought forward several plans before the governor made his announcement on May 1.

I have been working hard, alongside my fellow Republican colleagues in both the House and Senate, creating a comprehensive plan that truly moves Washington state forward in the right way, gets people back to work safely, restarts the economy, and resumes a normal way of life for us all. Our plan is called the Legislative Republicans' Safe Economic Restart Plan. We introduced this plan on April 17.

Our plan has three sets of actions – immediate action to be taken right now; legislative action to be taken in a special session; and actions to be taken with 6-12 months of the lifting the business closure order – to  enable the safe restart of Washington's economy and promote its continued recovery over the long term.

My colleagues Reps. Jesse Young and Jim Walsh have also introduced a plan, known as BOISE, to restart Washington state's economy. The BOISE plan is a two-pronged approach that seeks to allow shuttered businesses the opportunity to quickly earn back much-needed lost revenue and increase their short-term margin, while streamlining their ability to get back up-to-speed by removing waiting period for governmental reviews and permitting to begin their work. This plan was introduced on April 29 and legislation is currently being drafted for consideration should we have a special session.

I have also signed onto a letter supporting my colleague, Rep. Chris Gildon's plan to decentralize some of the governor's decision-making capabilities. A one-size-fits-all approach may help flatten the curve of the virus but is only prolonging the emotional and economic suffering of Washingtonians. The 39 counties across the state have elected officials and competent medical professionals who can lead the recovery efforts in their jurisdictions. They understand the resources available and are able to determine which restrictions need to be imposed or modified, which to remove, and the proper timeframe to do it. We should give local governments the authority on the best ways to open their communities. We delivered this letter to the governor on May 1.

House Republicans are working hard for you and doing all we can to introduce common-sense solutions to get Washington back to work safely and timely. Unfortunately, our efforts are not being heard or met by the governor.

I would like to hear your thoughts on the plans I've described above. Understandably, it seems there are so many mixed emotions as we try and find the next steps in the course of COVID-19. Please feel free to reach out to my office and provide your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.

For the latest information and resources on COVID-19, please visit this website.

It is an honor to serve you.

In Service,

Andrew Barkis

State Representative Andrew Barkis, 2nd Legislative District
122D Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 584-9846 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000