State Sen. Phil Fortunato defies COVID-19 rules, gets kicked out

Auburn lawmaker escorted out of the legislative building on Jan. 10

State Sen. Phil Fortunato. File photo.

State Sen. Phil Fortunato. File photo.

State Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn) was kicked out of the legislative building in Olympia for intentionally disregarding COVID-19 safety protocol on the first day of the legislative session.

The Senate majority approved requirements for in-person participation in the Senate chamber, including frequent COVID-19 testing.

Fortunato, who represents the 31st District, refused to get tested prior to entering the legislative building on Monday, Jan. 10, and was subsequently escorted out of the building.

Fortunato’s stunt in the legislative building comes during an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases. On Jan. 10, the seven-day average for new daily cases was 14,022 — three times higher than the previous peak in September 2021.

Statewide, hospitalizations are also surging with 1,773 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state and 152 people on ventilators, according to the Department of Health. Things have become so dire in hospitals that last week, the Washington State Medical Association sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee requesting that he declare a statewide crisis.

Despite this surge in cases that is overwhelming the state’s healthcare system, Fortunato decided to protest the new rules he claims are unconstitutional.

“The Senate majority rammed through these rules that don’t pass constitutional muster,” Fortunato said. “We have now been in an ‘emergency’ for nearly 700 days and it’s becoming clearer that this virus is something we are going to have to live with.”

Fortunato reasoned that it wasn’t fair for legislators to get tested when frontline workers have been going without testing this entire time.

Fortunato said he would attempt to participate in the legislative proceedings again on Wednesday, Jan. 12, when the Senate is scheduled to vote. He did not indicate whether he would get tested in accordance with the new policy.

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