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Amendment giving special powers to Legislature in case of catastrophe approved

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 5, 2019

Paul Riek checks damage to his vehicle after the top half of a nearby building collapsed during the Nisqually quake in downtown Seattle, Feb. 28, 2001. If “The Big One” hits, the Legislature likely will have special emergency powers to respond. (STEVAN MORGAIN / AP)
Paul Riek checks damage to his vehicle after the top half of a nearby building collapsed during the Nisqually quake in downtown Seattle, Feb. 28, 2001. If “The Big One” hits, the Legislature likely will have special emergency powers to respond. (STEVAN MORGAIN / AP)

If “The Big One” hits, the Legislature will have special emergency powers to respond.

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, voters were on their way to accepting a constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 8200, that was written to allow the state to deal with the aftermath of a massive earthquake from a geologic fault off the Pacific Coast.

The proposal sailed through the Legislature as a 21st century update to a constitutional amendment enacted during the Cold War, which provides for “continuity of governmental operations in periods of emergency resulting from enemy attack.”

SJR 8200 would broaden those powers to ensure continuity in case of “catastrophic incidents.” It was proposed with the possibility of a Cascadia Subduction Zone quake and tsunami in mind. The massive quakes occur on an average of 300 to 500 .

It would give the Legislature the power to move the state capital or a county seat; make changes to the requirements to elect or appoint legislators; pass bills; and fill vacancies in state or county offices in the aftermath of a quake. The Legislature could also fill an open governor’s seat if all people in the line of succession are unavailable.

Opponents claimed the powers the amendment would give the Legislature are too broad, and the definition of a catastrophic incident isn’t defined.

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