A video of Republican State Representative Jim Walsh showing how his key card no longer worked in an area of the Capitol campus has been posted online.
Employees at the Washington State House of Representatives now have to show proof of vaccination to access certain House facilities.
“I can’t get in the John L. O’Brien Building. Normally my key card will open this door. It doesn’t,” said Mr Walsh on video, which was posted to social media on 21 October, while trying his access card.
“I’m speaking to you from outside the John L. O’Brien House office building in Olympia because members have been locked out of the office buildings and the dome here at the Capitol if they haven’t provided Covid shot papers,” he said. “And I haven’t provided it.”
Walsh told KOMO News that it was “disturbing” and claimed that it could affect his work if he’s not allowed in his workplace. “I’m not able to do the business of the people and not able to effectively represent the constituents who sent me to Olympia if I can’t get into the building.”
A vaccine mandate deadline for Washington State workers passed on Monday, meaning those in certain professions would not be able to return to work without being vaccinated. More than 1,800 state workers resigned, retired or were fired due to the mandate.
Policy for the House and Senate facilities are left up to leaders within each chamber. Members of the House will not be prevented from carrying out their legislative duties, but those who cannot show proof of vaccination will have to do so remotely, explained Democratic House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, who runs the special house committee.
“It’s about keeping the public safe,” she said, “I guess as somebody who has worked in public health for nearly 30 years now, one thing I’ve learned is that ideology doesn’t overcome viruses. Vaccinations do.”
Ms Jinkins explained that coronavirus measures were temporary and she hoped normal working could resume by 10 January. Bernard Dean, the chief clerk of the House, said that staff were fully aware of the new interim policy, which has been on the House website for three weeks.
“In general, this vaccination verification is not mandatory nor is it a condition of employment for members,” Mr Dean told the Seattle Times in an email. “We have already re-established access for two members who have submitted the appropriate documentation since Monday’s deadline and expect that many more will do so in the coming weeks and months.”
Mr Walsh has been outspoken in his anti-vaccination stance and was criticised in the summer for wearing a yellow Star of David during a demonstration against vaccine rules.
“It’s an echo from history,” Mr Walsh wrote on Facebook about wearing the star. “In the current context, we’re all Jews.” He has since apologised for wearing the star.
Republican state Rep. Jim Walsh also spoke at the Hazardous Liberty! Defend the Constitution! rally to protest the stay-at-home order, at the Capitol building on 19 April, 2020, in Olympia, Washington.
The Independent has contacted Mr Walsh for further comment.