Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On June 30, 2021, the State of Washington was reopened by Gov. Jay Inslee's decree. Moving on to Aug. 9 and Aug. 18, new mandates were delivered requiring mandatory vaccinations for most state employees, health and long-term care workers and also vaccination requirements for employees working in K-12, most child care and early learning, and higher education. This action has generated numerous emails, telephone calls, and angry Washingtonians. This issue, in concert with mask mandates and police reform legislation has prompted many of you to contact my office demanding these edicts be stopped.
The governor's latest orders continue to come under the “emergency” declaration, which has now exceeded more than 550 days. His vaccine mandates are also the strictest in the nation.
The governor and our state government should not be dictating what the citizens of Washington should be putting in their bodies. Decisions concerning personal health care should be left up to each individual. I also believe the governor's proclamations may cross some constitutional lines.
Last year, Gov. Inslee praised our health care workers for their work on the front lines during the pandemic. He also praised our educators when many of them went back to the classroom to provide students an in-person education. Now, under his proclamations, these workers will lose their jobs unless they are vaccinated by Oct. 18. Is this how we treat some of our most essential employees during a pandemic? I would say no. This potential mass exodus is not what we need in our education and health care systems.
His actions are unnecessary and heavy-handed. Unfortunately, as I have stated for more than a year, we need to address the governor's emergency powers. My House Republican colleagues and I asked for a special session as far back as June 2020, requesting to be part of the decision-making process during the pandemic. We introduced many bills to reform the state's emergency powers law, including House Bill 1557.
In anticipation of where the governor may go with the vaccine mandates, during session there was legislation introduced to prohibit the government from requiring proof of vaccination to access public places and to protect an individual's right to refuse the vaccine without consequences. I supported this legislation. Unfortunately, the Democrats in Olympia did not even allow a public hearing.
You can find more information on our emergency powers reform legislation and our efforts to address his one-person-rule at our new website: What are House Republicans doing to reform the governor's emergency powers? It provides a timeline, including bills sponsored, debates, letters, op-eds, media coverage and more.
Being in the minority, we need some assistance from the Democratic majority party to make some of this happen. Stay engaged. You can contact the governor here, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) here. It is important they hear from all citizens who are concerned and frustrated with their decisions.
I am also concerned the governor's mask mandate takes away the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children. Rather than enforce more mandates and requirements, let's allow school administrators to work with their school boards, consider parental and local input, and put our trust in our local school districts. I recently signed onto a letter to the governor requesting he reconsider the mask mandate in schools and let school districts make that decision with the input of the parents in their communities. The governor has not responded to the letter. In fact, he has responded to very few of the more than forty letters our caucus has sent to him since we have been under the emergency declaration.
Police reform laws making our communities less safe
Earlier this summer, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs released a report that showed crime in Washington state increased overall in 2020. Murders were up almost 47% and have increased overall 67% since 2016. The report also indicated that Washington is ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand people.
Legislation that was passed last session has taken necessary tools and response protocols away from our law enforcement officers. This hampers our law enforcement officers' ability to do their job and now we are seeing many good, high quality officers leaving this profession. I have heard from many of our local law enforcement officials, as well as community members, genuinely concerned about the public safety of our officers and communities.
I, and my fellow Republicans, are more than willing to work with the governor and the Democratic majority to address the issues created by these new policies. We need to keep our communities and citizens we represent safe. For more information check out our webpage: Why police reform bills have made communities less safe.
I want to thank those of you who have contacted me this interim to share your thoughts and concerns on these important issues. Please continue to contact me with any questions, concerns or thoughts on the issues impacting our community and state. My contact information can be found at the bottom of this email.
Robert J. Sutherland
WA State Representative, District 39