Legislative session kicks off with packed agenda, virtual testimony, and multiple lawmakers with COVID
The 2022 legislative session convened Monday with opening ceremonies in the state House and Senate.
“Our time together this session is short, and the list of what we all hope to accomplish is long,” said House Speaker Laurie Jinkins during the House opening ceremony. “It will take all 98 of us in this chamber listening to each other and working together to tackle the challenges our state faces, whether it’s the economy, housing, transportation, health care, racial equity or climate change.”
During her comments, Jinkins acknowledged the loss of long-time state Senator Doug Ericksen last month after a week’s long battle with COVID.
Opening day also brought more announcements about lawmakers testing positive for COVID, including Democratic Senator Mark Mullet.
“Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), chair of the Senate Business, Financial Services & Trade Committee, will work the initial days of the 2022 legislative session from home after testing positive for COVID-19,” a statement from Mullet’s office reads.
“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 said. “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.”
Mullet, who has received a two-shot vaccination and a booster shot, said he was not suffering any symptoms and that his primary concern was to not expose anyone else to the virus.
“I think the immunizations really protect us from the brunt of the virus, which is key to keeping our hospital system from being overwhelmed,” he said. “If not for the immunizations, things could be a lot worse.”
Senator Yasmin Trudeau of Tacoma also announced she had a breakthrough case of COVID-19.
Those announcements came on the heels of two other Democratic senators — Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and Sen. John Lovick — reporting they had tested positive as well.
Lovick said he was dealing with only mild symptoms. Billig reported virtually no symptoms. Both had been fully vaccinated and boosted.
In addition to those now staying home due to COVID-19, most lawmakers were set to start the session remotely anyway as omicron cases surge in Washington.
As far as priorities for the session, bills in both chambers are aimed at fixing legislation passed in prior years.
Tuesday morning will see the House Public Safety Committee take up several bills aimed at making fixes to police reform bills passed last session that have caused some police departments to stop responding to certain calls.
HB 1719 would make changes to a bill that barred police from using most military style equipment, which unintentionally appears to ban the use of .50 caliber bean bag and other non-lethal rounds.
HB 1735 would make fixes to last session’s use of force bill that caused departments to stop responding to mental health calls because of concerns over changes to use of physical force standards, which is sometimes necessary when dealing with involuntary treatment patients. HB 1726 also addresses use of force by officers.
During a preview of the legislative session last week, Democratic and Republican leaders expressed desire to: look at legislative oversight in emergency situations, such as COVID; fix or repeal a controversial long-term care tax; and do more on the affordable housing and homeless front.
Several returning bills are also likely to get attention this session, including bans on so-called high capacity magazines and assault weapons, tougher penalties on repeat DUI offenders, and the state insurance commissioner’s quest to ban insurance companies from using credit checks to determine a person’s premium.
On the lighter side, there is a bill to make pickleball the state sport, as well as yet another effort to create a Patches Pals specialty license plate.
On the climate front, there are some big pieces of legislation, including tough restrictions on packaging, and a ban on the use of toxic chemicals in beauty products.
It remains to be seen how far these bills and topics will go in such a short session that also includes a big supplemental budget.
As for the tone of the session: “I have a feeling that the theme of this session is going to be seeking balance,” said Jinkins during Friday’s Seattle City Club legislative preview session.