Sen. Fortunato calls on governor to relax vaccine requirements for volunteers

OLYMPIA…While most of the nation has moved beyond vaccine mandates, Washington state remains an outlier, and a policy hidden in one of Gov. Inslee’s executive orders is putting a damper on cleaning up the state’s highways.

Sen. Phil Fortunato sent a letter to the governor asking him to relax the rules that require even volunteers in outdoor settings to provide proof of vaccination status to pick up garbage as part of the state’s Adopt-a-Highway program.

“It’s absurd that the state is requiring volunteers to provide proof of vaccination to clean up garbage outdoors,” said Fortunato, R-Auburn. “I was told there are concerns about safety, but the governor doesn’t seem to care about the vaccination status of people illegally camping on public right of ways who are creating the litter problem.”

Last year, the governor signed legislation sponsored by Fortunato aimed at cleaning up the state’s littered roadways. Senate Bill 5040, known as the Welcome to Washington Act, streamlines the process for road clean-ups and creates a process for local jurisdictions to get reimbursed for their own litter control activities on state highway ramps.

Local officials brought this issue to Fortunato’s attention after a local service organization was barred from participating in its Adopt-a-Highway clean-up.

“As I said in my letter, we can have disagreements about the necessity of the governor’s continuing emergency powers, but I believe that he should follow the example of other states and start to relax some of these more outlandish requirements and allow these volunteers to help make Washington beautiful again,” added Fortunato. 

You can read the entire letter here.