Washington Legislature

FILE — The Washington Capitol is seen on Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Olympia.

This editorial originally appeared in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin:

Along with electing several local officials on Nov. 5, voters will be asked to do a bit of constitutional housekeeping.

Don’t worry, no heavy lifting is involved. This one is a snap.

Voters are being asked to approve Senate Joint Resolution 8200, which updates the state constitution to include “catastrophic incidents” as a reason to take actions to ensure continuity of state and local governmental operations.

Currently, “enemy attack” is the only reason to take actions such as giving 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 devastation.

The provision was written in 1962 during the Cold War.

At this time, an enemy attack is not as likely as an enormous earthquake or perhaps tsunami.

“It’s about The Big One, the earthquake,” said state Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, R-16th District. “We know this will be the next disaster.”

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, a geologic fault line off the Pacific Coast that stretches from Canada to Northern California, has the potential for creating a massive earthquake that could decimate Western Washington and generate a tsunami that would inundate coastal communities, according to reporting done by the Spokesman-Review newspaper. Such quakes occur on average every 300 to 500 years, with the last one recorded in 1700, the newspaper reported.

Of course, it is hoped this provision is never needed.

Still, being prepared makes sense.

This is why state lawmakers easily approved this change to the constitution to be considered on the ballot.

In addition to putting SJR 8200 on the ballot, lawmakers approved legislation that clarifies a governor’s power to suspend certain laws and regulations in a declared emergency for as long 30 days without the Legislature’s approval, according to the Spokesman-Review.

This, too, seems reasonable.

Again, nobody wants The Big One to occur, but if it does the state will have a plan in place to ensure state and local governments continue to function.

We urge voters to approve SJR 8200.