Washington state Republican Representative Jim Walsh announced on Tuesday that he was locked out of buildings on the Capitol campus in Olympia for failing to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Typically, Rep. Walsh has a live Q&A on Tuesdays. Instead, he posted a video to Facebook taken outside a building on the Capitol campus. "This is the John L. O'Brien building, our main house office building adjacent to the dome, where I do most of my work, where my office is… except today I can't get in the John L O'Brien building."
Rep. Walsh demonstrated on video how his access card no longer opened the door to the building. "Normally my key card will open this door. It doesn't open this door today."
"What's happened? Well, The House executive rules committee has come up with what they call an 'interim policy' that prevents members from getting in the buildings on the Capitol campus. If they don't present COVID vaccine papers, and I have not presented COVID vaccine papers, so I can't access my office. I can't access the floor, the main chambers over under the dome. I can't do work from the Capitol as a legislator in this state."
"This is unusual. It is not something that the majority of the members of the legislature have voted on. It's not an emergency proclamation from the Governor. It's something different. It is an interim policy made by a small group of legislators and enforced on all legislators here, at least all House members."
"So, it is one more example of what I've talked about before of this slippery slope toward lawlessness. It's one more example of when we don't reign in the governor from his unlawful behavior, there's a slippery slope effect, a corrosive effect on other elements of government. Whether it's the judges and the judiciary branch, or here the legislators in the legislative branch."
"Not only are we as a legislature in the state, not acting as a check on the Governor's overreach and missteps, we're following the Governor's example, locking people out of their offices. If they don't provide papers, this is not constitutional. In my opinion, this is not legal and it's not moral. We are absolutely falling into some sort of Stockholm Syndrome that's taken a hold of the legislature here in Olympia. And rather than being that active check against the Governor’s abuses, we're following the Governor's lead. That's not what we're supposed to be doing. We're supposed to be standing up to that and representing you and giving you a voice in the John L O'Brien building or over there under the dome."
"So, this is not proper governance and locking members out of their offices if they don't provide papers, well to me, that's just not American."
He concluded by saying, "...for now on this cloudy Tuesday, we are full of clouds here at the Capitol in Olympia. Things are not good. They are rotten in Olympia."
The announcement came the same day that three percent of Washington state workers subject to Democrat Governor Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, left their jobs or were terminated for refusal to comply.
However, legislative staff and lawmakers are not subject to Inslee's vaccine mandates. Policy for the House and Senate buildings are decided by the leaders of each chamber. The Senate has not adopted the same rule as the House. Both chambers are expected to lay out a policy for the upcoming legislative session that begins on January 10.
According to the Office of Financial Management (OFM), 1,887 out of 63,000 state employees were terminated or left their positions over the mandate that they be fully vaccinated by October 18 or lose their jobs. An additional 4.6 percent of state workers, almost 2,900, are still pending because the employees are either in the process of receiving a job accommodation, are planning to retire, are getting vaccinated or are awaiting separation from their agency, according to a statement by OFM Tuesday afternoon.