Time to reopen Washington, get students back to school and senators back to Olympia

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are down, vaccinations are up and now is the time to reopen Washington and bring lawmakers back to Olympia, says Sen. Mike Padden.

Pointing to technology difficulties during the remote session, the lawmaker on Wednesday attempted to address the matter to his colleagues during a point of personal privilege between floor debates on bills but was shut down by Lt. Gov. Denny Heck before completing his comments.

“I appreciate our dedicated legislative technical staff and the leadership of both caucuses for their work in trying to handle the virtual session, but the residents of legislative districts are disenfranchised every time their elected representatives and senators are unable to participate in votes and debates due to technical problems,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “The time has come for lawmakers to return to the Capitol. Our case rates are cratering, vaccinations are steadily increasing, and hospitalizations are plummeting.

“The people send us here to be their voice, and they deserve to have their voices heard – not have them drowned out by Zoom glitches, slow connectivity and unmuted microphone disruptions.”

Padden pointed out that the remote session also discourages the public from participating in the legislative process directly.

“Right now, we still have a pointless, so-called security fence surrounding legislative buildings, which does nothing other than send a message to the public that they are not welcomed,” said Padden.

“The area between the Capitol and the Temple of Justice has always been a place of public debate and protest. For more than a hundred years it has been a place where Washingtonians have come to be heard on issues ranging from abortion and Second Amendment rights to labor, education and environmental causes. This session, those voices have fallen silent.”

Padden rose to a point of personal privilege Wednesday afternoon, drawing attention to the fact that three senators had not been able to speak during the debate, denying their 150,000 constituents full representation.  Sens. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, and Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, each had technology issues that prevented them from addressing the Senate.

As if on cue, Sen. Marko Liias, the Democratic floor leader, followed Padden with comments that the next senator slated to speak was also unable to do so due to technical issues.

Padden said that the improving conditions in Washington also warrant reopening businesses at 50% capacity or greater and getting more kids back in school, pointing out that Washington is 47th among states in returning students back to the classroom.