Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Many of you have been contacting me regarding the governor's recent decision to mandate vaccination for most state employees, health and long-term care workers.
It's unfortunate the issue of vaccination has caused so much polarization in our state and country. It shouldn't be this way. I chose to get vaccinated for a number of personal reasons, including a conviction I had that the potential reward outweighed the risks. For you and your loved ones, however, that may not be the case. I respect that, and believe it's important for all of us to respect the personal medical decisions of our fellow Washingtonians.
According to the governor's press release highlighting his proclamation, “individuals included in the proclamation's mandate must receive the final dose of their vaccination no later than October 4 so as to be fully vaccinated two weeks later on October 18 to comply with the proclamation.”
There are two paths forward for those of you who wish to be exempted from the mandate. One is a religious exemption and the other is a medical exemption. The governor's vaccine mandate FAQ states:
State employees may work with their agency's human resources office if they need a reasonable accommodation for medical or religious reasons. Private sector employers may choose a different process.
The proclamation itself goes into more detail on the religious exemption:
To the extent permitted by law, before providing a sincerely held religious belief accommodation to the requirements of this Order, individuals or entities for which Health Care Providers work as employees, contractors, or volunteers and State Agencies must document that the request for an accommodation has been made and the document must include a statement regarding the way in which the requirements of this order conflict with the religious observance, practice, or belief of the individual.
I have grave concerns about the state deciding whether or not someone's religious objections are sufficient enough to exempt them from the governor's mandate. Our federal and state constitutions clearly prohibit the government from defining religion. However, this is a path you can and should take if appropriate for your circumstances. In the meantime, I will be reaching out to the governor's office regarding this clear violation of your first amendment rights.
The proclamation also touches on the available medical exemption:
Health Care Providers and Workers for State Agencies are not required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they are entitled under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), or any other applicable law to a disability-related reasonable accommodation.
To the extent permitted by law, before providing a disability-related reasonable accommodation to the requirements of this order, individuals or entities for which Health Care Providers work as employees, contractors, or volunteers and State Agencies must obtain from the individual requesting the accommodation documentation from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional authorized to practice in the State of Washington stating that the individual has a disability that necessitates an accommodation and the probable duration of the need for the accommodation.
I believe the governor could have handled this entire situation in a much more constructive way that probably would have yielded better results without the division we're seeing. Unfortunately, he didn't, and the divide is growing larger. Going forward, it's up to each one of us to come together and unite, and I hope we will.
The majority's police reform bills are making our communities less safe
One of the biggest issues the Legislature focused on during this year's 105-day session was police reform. While I believe it's important to hold our men and women in law enforcement to the highest standard, I did not support the efforts by the majority to make it more difficult for them to do their jobs. It's simply unacceptable that criminals are now escaping justice because of the new laws created by House Bills 1054 and 1310.
These headlines tell the story:
- Bonney Lake officers say new reform laws kept them from tracking armed suspect
- Man jumps onto cop car, allegedly hits officer who was following police reform rules
- They had probable cause after he made threats, but law prevented Bellingham police pursuit
- Trying to follow new state laws, WSP shut down I-82 Sunday rather than removed woman from roadway
- Deputies searching for suspect after man shot dead in Puyallup parking lot
- State Patrol says troopers were unable to pursue wrong way driver because of new law
- DV suspect evades police as officers adhere to legislative changes
- Tri-Cities woman slashes tires on 3 cop cars. New law kept police from stopping her sooner
This is an unmitigated disaster of the Legislature's making. I agree with the appeals that have been made by my Republican colleagues for a special session to be called so we can fix the many problems in these bills.
I also want to make one other point. Our state is already ranked 51st out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of the number of police officers per thousand people. If we continue to demonize law enforcement and take away the tools they need to bring criminals to justice and keep our communities safe, we will lose more officers and crime will increase even more than it did last year. We can't afford to wait for the 2022 legislative session to convene to fix these bills. We have to act now.
Agree? Disagree? I'd like to hear from you. Take my police reform survey by clicking on this link.
A word on the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan
Like so many of you, I am deeply concerned for the Afghan people, the thousands of Americans stranded across Afghanistan, and our military personnel and their families who are watching the Taliban take over.
My heart breaks for our veterans who fought in Afghanistan and are now watching terrified Afghans cling to U.S. military planes as they take off from Hamid Karzai International Airport. I know a number of these fine men and women. Some have been shot, some have lost limbs, and still others suffer terribly from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of us also know those who lost their lives.
For those of you who served in Afghanistan, I want to say thank you. Please know your service was not in vein. For 20 years, you took the fight to the enemy over there instead of letting them coming here. For 20 years, you helped keep America safe. I salute you, I stand with you, and you have my utmost respect.
In closing, I want to echo the calls I've heard from others about the need for our state and nation to welcome with open arms the many refugees fleeing Afghanistan. Many of these individuals risked their lives helping us fight the war on terror. The least we can do is help them escape and provide them the gifts of freedom and opportunity we all cherish.
Please continue reaching out to me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is Drew.MacEwen@leg.wa.gov, and my phone number is (360) 786-7902.
It is an honor to serve you.