Abbarno Backs Bill Cutting Taxes on Satellite Broadband Infrastructure; Walsh Introduces Bill Reversing State COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Posted

With the 2021 short legislative session set to convene next week, local lawmakers continue to pre-file bills to be considered over the coming 60 days. 

The upcoming session will likely look similar to how it was last year, as COVID-19 cases continue an upward swing in Washington state due to the more-infectious omicron variant. 

Legislators in the state House will continue a strict telework policy, holding committee meetings and hearings largely over Zoom video conferencing, per an interim plan posted online. Legislators and staff in both houses will need to verify they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to access House facilities on the Capitol Campus, a requirement previously laid out back in the fall. 

The Senate will still require lawmakers to be physically present for floor action, though, which includes voting, though a remote voting option will be available for lawmakers who test positive for COVID-19. 

Legislative proceedings can be viewed online at www.tvw.org. 

Abbarno Backs Bill That Would Provide Relief to Deployment of Satellite Broadband Infrastructure

Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, last week threw his weight behind a bill prefiled by Rep. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, that would provide tax relief to manufacturers and operators of low-earth orbit internet satellites. 

If passed, House Bill 1702 would be part of a larger ambition by the state to connect every resident and business to 150-megabit-per-second internet by 2028, when most of the tax breaks are set to expire. 

“We need to find as many mechanisms to get broadband out to communities, and part of that is through funding mechanisms in terms of how do we get that infrastructure out, and the other thing is how can we do this through incentives programs like these,” the 20th Legislative District lawmaker said. 

Abbarno said incentivizing the development of more satellite internet and associated providers will be part of the larger goal to end issues of internet accessibility, which largely plague rural communities in Washington. 

Walsh Files Bill ‘Protecting the Right of Every’ Washingtonian to Decline COVID-19 Immunization 

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, last week filed a bill that would protect “the right of every Washington resident to decline an immunization or vaccination for COVID-19,” spelling out legislation that would largely attempt to overrule previous vaccine mandates laid out by the state over the past year. 

House Bill 1720 would restrict the state from issuing any mandates for COVID-19 vaccinations as part of a condition of employment, access to education, for travel, entry into a public space or as part of being contracted with a state agency or political subdivision. 

“Any rule, ordinance, order, policy or action enacted, issued, or taken in violation of this section is null and void as against the public policy of the state,” reads the final subsection of the bill. 

Walsh’s legislation is unlikely to see any serious attention from the Democratically-controlled House. Just days ago, Walsh prefiled a bill that compared limiting some legislator’s access to capitol buildings due to vaccination status to segregation.