Rep. Walsh: Bill prohibiting WA vaccine passports draws a line on what’s acceptable

State Representative Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen), just introduced a bill that would ban the use of vaccine passports across Washington state. He says he’s doing this because he wants to protect privacy, but it goes a little bit deeper than that. He joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss it, and began by defining what he sees a vaccine passport as.

“Any document or demand for a document made by a state agency — and this is a state focused law of course — so it’s state of Washington agencies or local agencies that would be required as a condition to an admission to a public building or a public place. And public place has a definition in state law here that’s a little broader than you might think. It includes basically public areas,” he said.

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“That is public areas owned by the state or the county or the city. It also includes privately owned properties that are generally open to the public, so things like grocery stores and retail stores … I tried to keep it simple where I took language from existing Washington law and cut and paste it into a new bill that says the government — either state government or local governments — can’t require papers to show that you’ve been vaccinated for admission to these public places.”

Is there any indication statewide that Democrats or the governor is interested in implementing that? On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee addressed those questions, saying that he “hasn’t given any serious consideration to that,” going on to note that if vaccine passports do begin to show up, it will likely be up to private businesses.

Even so, Walsh says politicians have been careful on the point, and that most of the vaccine passport talk has come from the media.

“They have been careful, and that’s frankly part of the reason that a bill like this is important. It draws the line at what freedom loving people will accept … Most of the talk of having vaccine passports in Washington has come from the media, has come from pundits and others, usually of a more left wing persuasion who are advocating for it,” he said.

“But the governor and some of the progressives in Olympia have been a little more careful and that’s a good thing.”

As Jason noted, there are different arguments from both political sides. Someone like Walsh will argue freedom, while the other side argues equity, that by instituting these vaccine passports, it’s inequitable because not everyone has access to a vaccine.

“This is true,” Walsh responded. “The thing about equity is you can kind of shape it to fit whatever argument you’re having. I prefer to focus on freedom and liberty which have, I think, generally more standard and consistent meanings.”

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Walsh says a homeowner or a business that is not generally open to the public could potentially require a vaccine passport the way the language of the bill is written.

“Certainly an individual homeowner can do that, and a business that is not generally open to the public could — under the language of this bill — still require some proof, if that was their choice. But a place that was open to the public or what’s sometimes called in the law, public accommodation, would have to allow everyone in and could not demand papers or a passport showing that an individual had been vaccinated,” he said.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.