Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, issued this statement regarding the closure of the Legislative Building and other Capitol Campus buildings to the public during the 2021 legislative session due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
“The Legislature is now in session to do the people’s business, yet the people are not allowed to get anywhere close to the Capitol to see their elected legislators in action or to interact in person with them on issues or concerns.
“I understand why fencing was put around the Capitol, and why there is such a strong presence by members of the Washington State Patrol, and National Guard and legislative security personnel. Nobody saw a reason for any of this until the U.S. Capitol was attacked, and now that the ‘wall’ is up Governor Inslee says he wants it to remain through Inauguration Day. I wonder if he’ll just leave it up indefinitely after that and point to our outgoing president as the excuse.
“Assuming the fence comes down and the additional security force goes away, the public will still be kept at arm’s length from what is supposed to be their government by the majority Democrats’ restrictions on public access. I appreciate the interest in protecting legislators, staff, lobbyists and the public from exposure to COVID-19, but conducting our work virtually has created a new kind of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in our state. One of the reasons I’m at the Capitol, instead of working from home like many legislators, is that I won’t risk missing a debate or a vote if there’s trouble with the internet service at my farm. Those who have reliable internet will be able to consider testifying remotely before legislative committees. Those who don’t will be shut out because they don’t have the option of traveling to Olympia and testifying in person.
“I have to believe most of us have left our homes at some point during this pandemic and set foot inside a retail store – and even if that store didn’t require the following of COVID precautions, we know what those precautions are. The Legislature’s meeting places are ‘boxes’ too, and that’s what makes the majority’s restrictions so frustrating. If people can shop at big-box or small retail stores, the public should be able to enter the Capitol as well.”