NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 10th, 2022

2022 legislative session begins; four state senators report positive COVID-19 tests

The 2022 ses­sion of the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture has begun!

Short­ly after noon today, the lat­est meet­ing of the state’s bicam­er­al leg­isla­tive branch was gaveled open by House Speak­er Lau­rie Jink­ins and Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Den­ny Heck, kick­ing off two months of onsite and remote lawmaking.

The 2022 ses­sion is expect­ed to run through March 10th, 2022, the last day allowed by the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion for a reg­u­lar ses­sion in an even-num­bered elec­tion year like the one we’re in.

Democ­rats con­tin­ue to wield a fifty-sev­en mem­ber major­i­ty in the House and twen­ty-eight mem­ber major­i­ty in the Sen­ate. Leg­isla­tive lead­ers have cit­ed sev­er­al pri­or­i­ties for this short ses­sion. Among them are adopt­ing a set of sup­ple­men­tal bud­gets, reform­ing the WA Cares long-term care ini­tia­tive, and tweak­ing some of the police account­abil­i­ty laws passed last year.

“All our fam­i­lies, in every dis­trict, deserve the oppor­tu­ni­ty to move for­ward and make some head­way,” said Speak­er Lau­rie Jink­ins said in a set of tra­di­tion­al ses­sion open­ing remarks from the ros­trum, observ­ing that past rebounds from reces­sion­ary gaps “haven’t [always] brought every­one along.”

Repub­li­cans con­tin­ued to lament that not every­one is togeth­er at the state cap­i­tal for the ses­sion. Top House Repub­li­can J.T. Wilcox has argued that lack of face to face inter­ac­tion in 2021 led to sub­op­ti­mal results.

“I think the process is break­ing down,” he said. “It’s a dis­as­ter for you, your cau­cus and the state if, as you’re win­ning, you’re not allow­ing the minor­i­ty (par­ty) and the cit­i­zens of Wash­ing­ton to help you avoid mak­ing mistakes.”

Democ­rats point­ed out that many aspects of the leg­isla­tive process have got­ten more acces­si­ble despite the remote nature of the last ses­sion. (For exam­ple, a per­son wish­ing to tes­ti­fy no longer has to give up most or all of their day to go down to Olympia just to speak for a minute or two.) And they declared that they’re lis­ten­ing to input gath­ered over the inter­im to make sen­si­ble adjust­ments to many of the ground­break­ing pol­i­cy bills enact­ed last year.

In the past few days, four Demo­c­ra­t­ic state sen­a­tors have test­ed pos­i­tive for COVID-19, under­scor­ing the neces­si­ty and impor­tance of gath­er­ing remotely.

New State Sen­a­tor John Lovick (D‑44th Dis­trict: Sno­homish Coun­ty) was the first to announce a pos­i­tive diag­no­sis, on Fri­day, Jan­u­ary 7th.

“I’m fine, I have a bit of a cold but oth­er than that I feel OK,” said Lovick.

“One thing is for sure – I’m relieved that I’m both vac­ci­nat­ed and boosted.

“I wear my mask, I wash my hands about twen­ty times a day and I still got it. This virus is noth­ing to mess around with and we all have to do our part to pro­tect our­selves and each other.”

The next day (Sat­ur­day, Jan­u­ary 8th), Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig (D‑3rd Dis­trict: Spokane) said he had come with down the virus as well.

“I am grate­ful to have been vac­ci­nat­ed and boost­ed, which I know has pre­vent­ed me from hav­ing any sig­nif­i­cant symp­toms.” said Billig.

“I also appre­ci­ate that we have the tech­nol­o­gy in place to facil­i­tate a hybrid leg­isla­tive ses­sion so Sen­a­tors can ful­ly par­tic­i­pate in leg­isla­tive activ­i­ties even while they quar­an­tine. I do not expect this pos­i­tive test will keep me from any of my leg­isla­tive duties as ses­sion gets under­way next week.”

This morn­ing, Sen­a­tor Mark Mul­let (D‑5th Dis­trict: Issaquah, Maple Val­ley, and oth­er com­mu­ni­ties in East King Coun­ty) said he too had test­ed positive.

“If I had to get it, this is prob­a­bly the best time of year to get it,” Mul­let said. “As the own­er of a restau­rant, which is a busi­ness where you can’t miss work, I was lucky not to catch the virus when I had to be avail­able to man­age my restaurant.”

“After my wife got COVID last Tues­day, I’ve got­ten test­ed to make sure it’s been safe for me to take care of our kids,” Mul­let added. “As recent­ly as Sat­ur­day night I test­ed neg­a­tive, but after my pos­i­tive test in Olympia this morn­ing I just got in my car and head­ed back home to pre­pare for a week of remote work.”

Hours lat­er, there was yet anoth­er sim­i­lar announce­ment, this time from Sen­a­tor Yas­min Trudeau (D‑27th Dis­trict: Tacoma).

“I’m grate­ful that I can iso­late at home with my fam­i­ly to min­i­mize the pos­si­bil­i­ty of spread, and I’m espe­cial­ly glad that my hus­band and I were vac­ci­nat­ed against this virus,” said Trudeau. “It’s scary to have COVID when we have a lit­tle one here at home who’s too young to be vac­ci­nat­ed, but we’re mon­i­tor­ing all of our symp­toms extreme­ly close­ly and know that we have an incred­i­ble com­mu­ni­ty sur­round­ing us to help us take care of our family.”

“I’m draw­ing on the resilience of our loved ones, the sup­port of my col­leagues and the encour­age­ment that comes from know­ing the Leg­is­la­ture is well-pre­pared to con­duct the people’s busi­ness remotely.”

“This isn’t the way I want­ed to start my first ses­sion, but I’m no less excit­ed and ready to do the work our com­mu­ni­ty wants done. After a full iso­la­tion and recov­ery, I plan to go to Olympia when it is safe and pos­si­ble to do so – but whether I’m there or here at home, I’m ready to work.”

Lovick, Mul­let, and Bil­lig all not­ed that they are triple vac­ci­nat­ed. Trudeau did not men­tion how many dos­es she’s received, but she may also be triple vaccinated.

Wash­ing­ton State, like much of the rest of the Unit­ed States and world com­mu­ni­ty, is expe­ri­enc­ing a surge in COVID-19 cas­es and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, dri­ven in part by the high­ly infec­tious omi­cron variant.

13,689 cas­es were report­ed yes­ter­day, accord­ing to the Depart­ment of Health’s COVID-19 dash­board. 19,150 new cas­es were report­ed on Sat­ur­day the 8th and 14,871 new cas­es were report­ed on Fri­day the 7th. Hos­pi­tal­iza­tions stand at 47,807, up from 46,215 on New Year’s Day.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee is slat­ed to deliv­er his annu­al State of the State Address tomor­row. How­ev­er, instead of appear­ing in a packed House cham­ber, Inslee will offer remarks from the State Recep­tion Room in the Leg­isla­tive Build­ing before a small num­ber of media rep­re­sen­ta­tives and guber­na­to­r­i­al staff. Law­mak­ers will watch the speech remote­ly along with the public.

If you’d like to watch, nav­i­gate to tvw.org at noon on Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 11th.

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