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Guest column: Inslee could ease restrictions during pandemic, explain decisions

by Sen. Mark Schoesler
| April 16, 2020 12:00 AM

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, issued a statement in response to the announcement Monday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and California Gov. Gavin Newsom that they have an agreement on a shared vision for reopening their states’ economies and controlling COVID-19 into the future. Sen. Schoesler’s statement, edited for space and style, is below.

If Washington shares a vision with California and Oregon, we should open up our economy to things like residential construction, as those states do, instead of being an outlier. Oregon’s stay-home order is far less restrictive than Washington’s about which categories of businesses are allowed to remain open. Oregon’s governor closed types of businesses where social distancing is impractical or impossible, and let everyone else stay open as long as they adhere to social distancing requirements. That’s a practical, common-sense approach that I wish our governor would use to allow more of our state’s economy to function.

The inconsistencies between the states go beyond building construction, which is our state’s biggest generator of tax revenue. ... Oregon and California are allowing road-construction projects to continue, yet Washington isn’t. Washington sees firearms dealers as expendable, while Oregon’s can remain open if they practice safe distancing, and in California that decision is left to its counties. ... Even hunting and fishing, which are easily done in solitary, are prohibited in our state. I wonder how many other states view bank or stream fishing as risky from a COVID-19 standpoint. Oregonians and Californians can still fish and hunt in their states. While many of Oregon’s state parks are closed, its wildlife areas are open during the day — that’s something Washington can’t say.

The governors said they will use data and metrics in making decisions. Over the past few weeks Senate Republicans have repeatedly asked for the specific metrics our governor is using to make the decisions that are affecting every Washingtonian. We need to see the metrics that allow government-related construction to continue but prohibit private construction. We need to see the metrics that allow work on road culverts but forbid work on highways. We need to see the metrics that allow building of arenas for professional sports but prevent building of homes for injured, homeless veterans. The people deserve full transparency on this if they are to trust that sound decisions are being made here in Washington, with or without Oregon and California.