Since Gov. Jay Inslee announced renewed masking requirements and vaccination mandates, legislative offices have been flooded with messages in strong opposition. The Freedom Caucus is backing a resolution for a historic legislative special session that would cover key policy areas being voiced by their constituents:
- Public safety;
- Emergency-powers reform;
- Vaccine mandates; and
- Local control over masks schools.
“I feel very strongly that we should send a clear, concise message about personal freedom to the people we represent. Vaccine mandates and other state edicts should be local decisions. Our constituents don’t want legislative double speak,” state Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn said. “They are asking us to ‘do everything in our power’ to protect against losing their jobs because of their personal health decisions.”
“The governor has one of the harshest mandates in the country,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “Even many of those who have taken the vaccine and are supportive of the vaccine effort in general are opposed to this overreaching order. It threatens our workers in state government, K-12 schools, the health-care sector, childcare, and other fields of public service with the destruction of their livelihoods.
“The governor is saying that he will end your career, take food off your table and prevent you from feeding and providing shelter for your family unless you agree to comply with his order to inject a relatively new vaccine into your body. That is an unacceptable encroachment on individual liberty that all lawmakers have an obligation to address.”
Freedom Caucus members point to a lack of legislative consultation and oversight of the governor’s actions. Other states’ legislatures have acted to rein in executive powers. Washington remains an outlier, having been under a state of emergency for more than 550 days with no signs of the executive branch relinquishing its unilateral control.
“This new abuse of power further confirms that the Legislature erred when it allowed the governor to continue his COVID emergency powers,” said Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview. “This has resulted in cruel and harsh punishment to the citizens of Washington. The governor’s actions continue to demonstrate he has no desire to share the decision-making process by keeping other elected officials on mute.”
Underscoring the varying differences in how COVID-19 is handled around the country, state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale noted, “The science in Florida and the science in Washington is the same. Only the governors are different. They have much greater freedoms in Florida than Washington while health statistics are similar. We need a legislative session now in Olympia to let the voices be heard of those who the freedoms enjoyed in other states.”
As Inslee’s mid-October deadline for forced vaccinations looms, some political allies of the governor and legislative majority are voicing their opposition, even going as far as filing a lawsuit to delay the mandate on state workers. Numerous first responders around the state and nation also are taking a similar stance in opposition to a heavy-handed vaccine mandate as a condition of employment.
“I will stand in solidarity against any vaccine mandate for our children, police officers, firefighters, medical workers, state workers and private-sector workers,” Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham added. “I’m 100% for medical freedom and constitutional rights. The governor does not have the authority to mandate vaccines under state law. Let’s stand together against this overreach.”