Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, offered these remarks Feb. 4, 2021, during a meeting of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. Remarks came during discussion of Senate Bill 5227, a bill requiring public colleges and universities to launch mandatory racial training programs.
“One of the reasons I think that we should not be hearing this bill today or be moving forward on it is because of the gigantic fence behind you currently on that Capitol building, where people can’t get behind you to petition their government. And there are armed guards preventing people from being able to enter the Capitol campus, to be able to work on legislation like this. Whatcom County, which I represent, is still locked down by Gov. Inslee’s executive orders and emergency orders, and the Legislature has still not yet taken action to roll back those emergency powers of the governor.
“But I think, even more important to this particular bill – I think it was just a few years ago, when we had similar legislation with regards to dividing the country or the state up by race with Initiative 1000… when the chambers of Olympia were filled, and there were people on one side of the gallery who were yelling one thing, and people on the other side of the gallery who were yelling something else. They had the ability to come and petition their government.
“Here we are, talking like you’re on Mars, and somebody’s on the moon, and we can’t communicate in person, and the public is prevented from being able to participate in the process by sitting in the galleries behind you. If you look at the picture of Sen. Holy right there, you can see where the galleries were filled with people shouting back and forth at each other during that initiative process, when they were trying to pass that bill.
“Right now we are not at that position. So I would encourage us to set this bill down, and set down all bills like this, so we can focus in. If we are truly in an emergency situation in Washington state, if we have to be under these rules and regulations, if the public cannot enter the Legislative Building to participate and have their ability to have their voices heard, these bills should be put down.
“I think this bill is a great example of why the public voice has to be heard, because in my 20 years in the Legislature, there was probably no more impactful moment for me – when I had, on one side of the gallery, members of the Chinese community yelling and cheering and shouting. And on the other side of the gallery, we had members of the African-American community, also cheering and yelling and rallying and having their voices heard by the Legislature.
“Here we are now, with a gallery that’s empty, with a Legislature that’s empty, with – like a Third World country, with chain-link fences keeping people from entering their government buildings, and with armed guards out there every day. And we’re doing legislation like this, while the businesses in my district are still shut down, unable to operate, unable to open their doors, unable to hire their employees. That is what we should be dealing with today, and not legislation like this.”