Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibilityJudge allows Washington state House COVID lockout to stand – DC QUAKE
April 18, 2024

Judge allows Washington state House COVID lockout to stand

2 min read

A judge in Washington has dismissed part of a lawsuit challenging a policy in the state House of Representatives requiring lawmakers and staff to be fully vaccinated in order to gain entry to their offices and the House floor.

The suit was filed last month by six Republican House members seeking a temporary injunction against the rule, saying it “unfairly limits access” and also violates their First Amendment rights.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson said last week that the plaintiffs had not proven that the temporary injunction was warranted.

“Simply put, the plans do not prevent the plaintiff legislators from participating in the legislative process,” she ruled, noting that lawmakers can still work remotely, including participating in hearings and voting.

Wilson said her decision only applied to the injunction and not the broader lawsuit.

The vaccination rule went into effect on Oct. 18, the same day Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate took effect that all state employees had to be fully vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.

Inslee’s mandate did not apply to legislators or legislative staff, but House and Senate leaders crafted their own policies.

The House Executive Rules Committee voted in September on the policy, with all four Democrats on the committee voting in favor of it and the three Republican members voting against it.

Republican Rep. Jim Walsh in October posted a video of himself unable to access the House office building with his identification badge, which doubles as a key card.

Walsh called the rule a “slippery slope toward lawlessness” and “un-American,” saying legislators should act as a check against what he called Inslee’s “unlawful behavior” rather than following his lead.

On the Senate side, legislators and staff who do not provide proof they are fully vaccinated must present a negative test taken within 72 hours of wanting to access offices or the Senate floor.

The Senate will provide testing onsite on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and will bill the legislator or staff member for the cost of the test. Masks must be worn unless a person is in their office alone.

Senators will also be required to get tested, even if they are vaccinated, to be present on the floor on session days.

Staff members are encouraged to continue working remotely, although Senators can have two aides on site at a time if they file a safety plan and adhere to social distancing.

The state’s 60-day legislative session for 2022 begins Jan. 10

This article was originally posted on Judge allows Washington state House COVID lockout to stand

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