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Power Not Partisanship

The other day, we came across some news from Washington state about a brewing tug of war between the executive and legislative branches over gubernatorial power. This isn’t unusual. But it provided a great example of the idea that all conflicts between branches of government are not colored in shades of red versus blue. Partisanship is not, in short, at the root of all intragovernmental


This isn’t a new idea. Over the years, we’ve taken note of the simple fact that legislatures and governors have plenty of reason to argue even when they’re dominated by the same party.

In brief, here’s the Washington story: At the end of January, democratic leaders from the state senate introduced a bill to limit the authority democratic Governor Jay Inslee has over emergency proclamations and executive orders that limit business or personal activity. The bill, introduced by State Senate Majority Whip Emily Randall and co-sponsored by seven other Democrats, would give Senate and House leadership the ability to terminate a gubernatorial state of emergency or other “prohibitive orders” issued by the governor when the legislature isn’t in session.

Details about the bill were spelled out in an article in The Olympian on January 28. According to that piece, Randall said the bill was designed to address the uneven balance of power.

Not surprisingly, Governor Inslee spoke against the bill at a January 27 press conference.

Red-Red battles have also blossomed in states like Indiana, Georgia and New Hampshire, where republicans hold the power in both legislature and executive branches, as a January 25 article in The Hill pointed out. Disagreements over emergency powers have also appeared in New Mexico and New Jersey, where democratic leaders rule the roost.

Plenty of legislative-executive battles have blossomed over American Rescue Plan Act spending decisions, as well. We wrote about these disagreements in a July 21, 2021 column in Route Fifty. As we said back then, “Even states in which both the legislative and executive branches are of the same party, questions over who has the power over the purse strings continue to pop up.”


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