Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The governor's Oct. 18 vaccination deadline will not be extended. Gov. Jay Inslee made the announcement at a press conference Thursday. Under the governor's mandate, most state employees, private health care workers, long-term care workers, and employees working in K-12, child care workers, early learning, and higher education must be vaccinated by this coming Monday, or they could lose their jobs.
The governor noted that as many as 92 percent of workers covered under his mandate are now vaccinated. However, Gov. Inslee said Thursday he will not budge from the deadline, nor will he provide flexibility, such as masking and testing in place of vaccinations.
The governor also issued a new vaccine verification requirement for large events in Washington state. The order — which kicks in Nov. 15 — will require large indoor events of 1,000 people or more, or outdoor events with 10,000 or more attendees, to verify that a person is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or has obtained a negative test within the prior 72 hours.
I am fully vaccinated. I support vaccinations. However, I do not support forcing people to lose their jobs and their livelihoods for choosing not to be vaccinated.
It's unfortunate that our state is not making accommodations for non-vaccinated workers. Exemptions for health or religious reasons are allowed, but only under rare circumstances. Many exemptions have been denied. These are dedicated, hard-working employees who have served on the front lines for the state — some for many years — and yet the governor is bidding them farewell while their voices have been shut out of the process.
There are also many unfair and confusing inconsistencies with the governor's orders. For example, all social workers within foster care must be vaccinated — even those who are working remotely from home and have no contact with children or other employees. However, visitation supervisors, who have direct contact with many foster children, biological families and other social workers, are not required to be vaccinated. Neither are foster parents. How does that make sense?
I've listened to people all over the state on this issue. Instead of respecting people's very passionate personal and religious oppositions to the vaccines, the governor is showing them the door. As a result, critical workers are losing their jobs at a time when Washington is facing labor shortages in health care and essential services.
The Washington State Ferry System, suffering from a chronic lack of crew, announced Wednesday it is cutting sailings on some routes by half. The Seattle School District recently announced it will have to cut two-thirds of bus routes because not enough drivers are vaccinated. And a recent survey by the Washington Hospital Association says hospitals across the state could lose up to 5 percent of their workforce due to the vaccine mandate.
It is especially cruel during these uncertain times that, in most cases, those who do lose their jobs under this mandate will not qualify to receive unemployment benefits.
What is most frustrating is that this was all done WITHOUT public input. This is not how our government system is supposed to work.
We, as the minority party, have exhausted every constitutional procedural move to limit the governor's emergency powers, and restore balance of power and the people's voice. You can read more here about what we have done.
Our executive branch should be able to respond quickly to statewide emergencies. However, we are now more than 19 months under Gov. Inslee's emergency ruling with no end in sight. One person should not be able to act unilaterally for months or years on end without input from all three branches of government.
The eviction moratorium may finally end Oct. 31
Some good news came from the governor's press conference Thursday. Gov. Inslee was asked if he would be issuing a further extension of the eviction moratorium, now scheduled to end Oct. 31. The governor said, “I don't think that's a possibility.”
As you may be aware, I spent hundreds of hours during the 2021 legislative session as ranking Republican on the House Housing, Human Services, and Veterans Committee negotiating a compassion end to the eviction moratorium. This included amendments to Senate Bill 5160 to end the eviction moratorium on June 30 and provide an off-ramp to ensure rental assistance was available while counties got their assistance programs up and running.
Unfortunately, the governor created a bigger problem and broke faith with the Legislature and the public by vetoing the off-ramp solution. Then in June, he ordered a so-called “bridge extension” to Sept. 30.
By the end of September, only 20 percent of the rental assistance funds the Legislature had made available had been distributed by local governments. The fact that our governmental system is operating at a glacial pace should not have fallen on the backs of property owners who have been forced to carry the burden of thousands of tenants not paying their rent. That's what I said in this statement on Sept. 23 when Gov. Inslee again extended the eviction moratorium through Oct. 31.
The governor's statement Thursday indicating a hard end to the eviction moratorium on Oct. 31 is a glimmering light at the end of what has been an exceptionally long and dark tunnel for rental property owners. Let's hope this time, the governor sticks to his word.
- Listen to my interview on the eviction moratorium on KELA Radio.
- Read my quotes in this Associated Press article: Eviction protections extended to Oct. 31
Tax Structure Work Group holding virtual statewide tax town halls
If you missed Wednesday's virtual tax town hall meeting for the West Region, including the 26th District, there are still several other opportunities to provide your input. The bipartisan Tax Structure Work Group (TSWG) is holding virtual tax town hall meetings across the state to hear from individual taxpayers and business owners about the state's tax structure in a quest to make it “more equitable, adequate, stable, and transparent.”
TSWG is considering proposals that include a state income tax for higher incomes — and property tax increases — with a possible slight reduction in sales taxes. I am very concerned once we open that Pandora's box, those thresholds will eventually be lowered by future legislatures so we all will be paying more taxes to the state. Just take a look at the last three years. Despite record tax collections, the Legislature has significantly increased taxes since 2019, including this past year with the passage of a capital gains tax, which I opposed.
These town hall meetings are an opportunity for you to voice your opinions, especially when it comes to a statewide income tax.
The next closest meetings of the group involve the South/East Puget Sound Region on Wednesday, Nov. 3. Sign up for the afternoon session (2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.) here. Or you can attend the evening session (6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) by signing up here.
Legislative and congressional boundaries are being redrawn
Every 10 years, after the federal government publishes updated census information, Washington redraws the boundaries of its congressional and state legislative electoral districts to ensure that each district represents an equal number of residents. Those efforts are taking place now.
The four members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission recently submitted their first draft of legislative and congressional district maps. You can find these maps and commissioner statements on this web page.
At least three of the commission members are supposed to agree on a final plan by Nov. 15. If they can't agree, the final decision will be left to the state Supreme Court. The public is invited to be involved. For more information, click here.
Please stay in touch!
If you have any questions about the issues in this email update or other state government-related matters, please contact my office. I appreciate your feedback, questions, and concerns. My contact information is below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you.