Washington House, Senate will start session mostly remote as COVID cases surge
The current surge of COVID-19 cases across Washington has pushed local lawmakers in the state House and Senate to shift back to a mostly remote model.
The Washington House voted Monday to scale back the number of people allowed in the chamber for the upcoming legislative session, requiring a majority of lawmakers to vote remotely — similar to last year. The House will reassess operations every two weeks and can update the plan as conditions change.
When the session starts Jan. 10, two lawmakers from each caucus and the presiding officer will be allowed on the House floor. That’s two more members than were allowed last year, but fewer than originally planned for 2022.
Everyone must show proof of vaccination, and the updated plan requires any lawmaker or staffer on the floor to also have received a booster. There will also be testing three times a week for all lawmakers and staff who work onsite.
The Associated Press reports that 15 Republican lawmakers in the House had not provided proof of vaccination as of this week. There are 98 members in the House, and Democrats hold a 57-41 majority.
The state Senate followed the lead of the House on Tuesday evening, also moving to limit the number of lawmakers allowed on the chamber floor and prohibiting access to Senate facilities. Operations will essentially return to how things looked last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.