Washington lawmaker is locked out of capitol over COVID vaccine mandate

Oct 21, 2021, 2:40 PM | Updated: 3:40 pm
jim walsh, washington lawmaker...
(Screenshot from Rep. Jim Walsh's Facebook video)
(Screenshot from Rep. Jim Walsh's Facebook video)

A Washington state lawmaker says he’s been locked out of the state capitol in Olympia over the COVID vaccine mandate.

A widely circulated video shows state Representative Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) trying to get into the John L. O’Brien building.

“Normally my keycard will open this door,” Walsh says in the video. “It doesn’t open this door, today.”

The Chief Clerk of the House, Bernard Dean, confirmed that the card was, indeed, shut off because Walsh has not provided proof that he’s vaccinated against COVID-19.

“All members who have not submitted any vaccination information, and staff, their cards we deactivated on Monday,” Dean explained.

The House Rules Committee passed the requirement. It took effect on the same day that state employees had to prove they were fully vaccinated or had a valid religious or medical exemption. If not, they faced being fired. Over 1,800 state employees have been terminated due to the mandate.

Dean says lawmakers were warned, several times.

Walsh said there are consequences.

“I can’t access my office,” Walsh said. “I can’t access the floor, the main chambers, under the (capitol building) dome. I can’t do work.”

But Dean tells KIRO Radio that lawmakers can still do their constituents’ business. In fact, he says, “the majority of members and staff are actually working remotely,” and they have been since the height of pandemic.

Dean added that lawmakers don’t frequently visit the capitol between legislative sessions. When they are working — wherever they’re working from — they still get paid.

Representative Walsh appeared unmoved.

“Locking members out of their office if they don’t provide papers? Well, to me, that’s just not American,” he said.

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Washington lawmaker is locked out of capitol over COVID vaccine mandate