OLYMPIA — The Washington State House of Representatives voted on April 17 to pass two measures to ensure governmental continuity in the event of a natural disaster.

Senate Bill 5012, sponsored by Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, expands the Continuity of Government Act to apply to natural catastrophes and requires the Washington Military Department to develop a program for state and local government agencies to plan for such events. Current law provides for continuity of government only in the event of enemy attack.

“I grew up between the mouth of the Columbia River and Aberdeen. That’s ground zero for the Cascadia Subduction Zone,” Takko said. “We hate to think of a big earthquake coming, but we’re past due for one. If the worst does come and we have an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or tsunami, this measure will allow us to have a functional government when people will need help the most.

“Last year, this issue got hung up on the last day of session. I’m glad that the House has moved earlier this year.”

SB 5012 passed by a vote of 90-8.

Because the state constitution allows the Legislature to provide for the continuity of government only in case of enemy attack, a constitutional amendment is also necessary. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds supermajority in both houses and approval by a majority of voters.

Senate Joint Resolution 8200 proposes an amendment to Article II, section 42 of the state constitution to authorize the Legislature to enact these measures to ensure continuity of government during natural catastrophes. It passed by a vote of 91-7.

Having been amended in the House, SB 5012 now returns to the Senate for reconsideration. SJR 8200 has passed the Legislature and will go to the ballot in the next state general election for a vote of the people.

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