As of Monday, February 5, 2018
OLYMPIA For the first time in more than 30 years, emergency planning in Washington state could include preparations for potential nuclear attacks, with bipartisan support in bills entering both the House and Senate.
The Legislature voted in 1983 to ban including nuclear war preparations in emergency planning procedures. The prohibition specifically applies to planning for evacuation and relocation of citizens.
The move was made in the context of increasing tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union. With former President Ronald Reagan taking an aggressive stance against what he called the “evil empire,” lawmakers in Washington state were concerned that preparing for a nuclear war would draw the ire of Russian leaders.
Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, said that such fears have been extinguished with the fall of the Soviet Union and the United States’ status as the world’s sole superpower. Muri is the primary sponsor of House Bill 2214, which would remove the prohibition on preparing for a nuclear attack.
Muri, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, said a routine part of his job during the Cold War involved surveying air fields in case of nuclear attacks. The representative said the biggest threat of nuclear war today comes from “rogue” nations like North Korea and Iran.
“The idea is that we would hopefully have some plans in place that would mitigate any potential attack,” Muri said at the bill’s public hearing Jan. 22. “It’s unthinkable, but we should plan.”
House Bill 2214 passed the House Committee on Public Safety Tuesday afternoon and heads to the House floor for debate. A companion in the Senate, Senate Bill 5936, will be heard in committee Friday morning.
Seattle resident James Thomas testified in opposition to the bill, citing the same concerns that brought about the ban in the first place.