Election workers, vaccine equity and a testy GOP presser

Here’s what’s happening on Day 31 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2021 Washington Legislature, Day 31 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 10, 2021 — Good morning.

As Day 2 of Trump Impeachment II gets under way, a political double-header looms in Olympia today.

This afternoon, a $2.2 billion COVID relief package is expected to get approved by the state Senate and sent to the governor for signing.

Around the same time, a Thurston County Superior Court judge will issue a ruling in the state’s nearly four-year-old civil lawsuit against ballot-initiative impresario Tim Eyman.

Vaccination equity

Are the state-run mass vaccination sites pushing quantity ahead of equity? House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, hinted as much Monday, telling reporters she’d like to see vaccination efforts increased in local communities. Corralling lots of folks at one location is efficient, but Democrats are concerned it’s not achieving the equitable distribution they desire.

It’s not a criticism of what the state Department of Health is doing, she said. It’s a difficult balance made harder by too much demand and not enough supply of doses, she said. Still, Democrats have a few questions they plan to pose to state health officials next week.

Protecting election workers

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, told the Senate Law and Justice Committee that he got “really ticked off” by reports of election workers in Washington and around the country being threatened and harassed following November’s election.

As you recall, some had their personal information circulated online. And there was a website containing pictures of Washington’s election director and her counterparts in other states with crosshairs superimposed on the images.

Frockt introduced Senate Bill 5148 to send a message that it’s not acceptable. The bill would impose stiffer penalties on those found guilty of harassing an election official.

Not a lot of people will ever get prosecuted under the tougher punishment, he said. It is a statement — that if you engage in harassing unelected election workers, “you will be prosecuted.”

It received a hearing Monday and is set for a committee vote Thursday.

Next question

Tuesday’s media availability with Republican leaders had a touch of tension.

Republican senators’ appointment of a former colleague, Joe Fain of Auburn, to the 2021 Redistricting Commission is roiling women political leaders.

Earlier that day, those guiding the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, the state Democratic Party and four other organizations called for Fain’s resignation. They want a “thorough investigation” of sexual-assault allegations that first surfaced in a social media post as Fain sought re-election to the Senate in 2018.

Fain denied the alleged incident took place. No police report has ever been filed. He lost the election.

When reporters asked GOP legislators about the resignation demand, they passionately defended Fain and took aim at reporters for even bringing up the topic.

“It is irresponsible journalism to continue to push this narrative,” said Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center, who called Fain a “noble public servant” who had been “besmirched” by campaign politics that “all went away right after the election.”

“We just think it is time for responsible reporting to happen where no more ink is devoted to campaign smears. We are standing by Sen. Fain as the most sound choice,” she said, concluding, “That is that. Next question.”

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