By Sen. Jeff Holy, Rep. Mike Volz and Rep. Jenny Graham:
Regardless of your thoughts on COVID-19, vaccine mandates and masks in schools, we as a state should be concerned with the never-ending edicts emanating from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office.
We are over 20 months into “emergency” rule by one person. This unprecedented power grab by the executive branch threatens the foundational “separate but equal” concept of our three branches of government. And, as we have seen time and time again, once government takes power, it rarely gives it back to the people.
A bipartisan group of legislators from both the House and Senate began sounding the alarm as far back as April 2020. We have called for a special session multiple times since then to scale back the size and scope of the governor’s emergency powers. The majority party in Olympia rebutted our attempts.
It defies reason that elected officials are not voting on these restrictions after a period of time. However, by denying the need for a special session, the legislative majority seems intent on allowing the governor to rule indefinitely.
Earlier this summer, Gov. Inslee took a victory lap around the state to celebrate the end to many of his COVID restrictions. When asked by a reporter about emergency powers reform, his response was: “I’m not sure you want to go back and reform when you’ve won the Super Bowl. And we’ve won the Super Bowl of the COVID pandemic.”
His statement didn’t age very well. Within months, more restrictions were in place as the delta variant swept through the state. And, with no one from the judicial branch challenging the governor’s ever-expanding powers, he was free to implement his vaccine mandate.
We believe that regardless of vaccine availability or effectiveness, it should not be mandated as terms for employment. Especially as other options like testing, natural immunity and masking exist.
Ultimately, lawmakers need to have a voice in policy making, especially if – or when – this mandate is extended to the private sector or for K-12 students.
In addition, at a time when violent crime locally and in our state is increasing, Gov. Inslee’s vaccine mandate has made our communities less safe as officers have been taken off the streets.
First responders and medical professionals who were heroes working on the front lines just a month ago now find themselves vilified for even attempting religious and medical exemptions, which in most cases are denied or not even considered.
Many have lost jobs and careers years in the making. They’ve lost the ability to feed and take care of their families. It makes no logical sense that they could safely do their jobs months ago when no one was vaccinated yet can’t do their jobs safely today when 63% of the state’s population have received a shot.
While some workers are receiving exemptions, the governor has gone out of his way to direct state agencies to do as little as possible to accommodate them. In other words, your doctor may tell you NOT to get the vaccine because you have an underlying medical condition, or perhaps you’ve already had a dangerous reaction to the first shot, but the state doesn’t have to accommodate you. You’re fired!
It does make one wonder: Is this about health and safety, or about compliance and control?
Since the beginning of the pandemic last year, literally thousands of you have contacted our offices objecting to the governor’s mandates. We agree.
As legislators, we’ve asked for special sessions, written countless letters to the governor, introduced legislation and offered amendments to bills being debated in the House and Senate.
We’ve held interviews, been on radio programs, sent press releases, written op-eds and sent email updates and constituent responses to keep our people informed. We will continue to do so.
But we need your voice to be heard loud and clear. We urge you to contact the governor’s office at (360) 902-4111. Or visit him at governor.wa.gov.
Let him know the time for one-person rule in Washington state is over. The duly elected officials from around the state should be involved in the process of governing as we continue to navigate the current pandemic. Our democracy depends on it.
Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney; Rep. Mike Volz, R-Spokane; and Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, all represent the 6th Legislative District.
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