Gov. Dixy Lee Ray issued several executive orders in 1980 that related to the Mount St. Helens eruption. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)
They might lack the authority and consensus of legislatively approved state laws, but executive orders are a powerful way that Washington’s governors have made things happen in state government over the years.
Executive orders are formal orders issued by the governor, generally to cabinet agencies statewide, requiring that certain actions be taken. They may have the force and effect of a law. One historic use of these orders came in connected with the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. More recently, Gov. Jay Inslee used executive orders to deal with climate change.
The Washington State Library is a portal you can use to look up past executive orders going back to 1918, linking to Gov. Inslee’s website.
You can view the Executive Orders Archive here. This archive also covers Govs. Chris Gregoire, Gary Locke, Mike Lowry, Booth Gardner, John Spellman, Dixy Lee Ray, Dan Evans, Albert Rosellini, Arthur Langlie, Louis Hart and Ernest Lister.
Evans (1965-77) began what could be called the golden age of executive orders. He had the most executive orders (117) of any governor included in the archive, which is not surprising considering he served three terms. Spellman was also a prolific user of executive orders, issuing 90 in his one term (1981-85) in office. Gardner ranked third with 75 over his two terms (1985-1993) in the Governor’s Mansion. Ray issued 54 in her one term (1977-81).
Washington’s governors haven’t taken the executive order route as often lately. Lowry issued them only (more…)