By Rep. Mark Hargrove
For the Reporter
In early January, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) blindsided foster parents with a rule change requiring them to receive the flu vaccine by the end of February or be prohibited from caring for foster children under two years of age.
As you may have heard, this year’s flu vaccine is only 23 percent effective. Meanwhile, just 50 percent of doctors receive the shot, and Pierce County nurses are suing over being required to receive it. DSHS’s mandate threatens to chase hundreds of foster parents out of the system when Washington state needs them most.
I am continuing to work toward reversing or delaying this rule before we unnecessarily harm the children who urgently need a safe and loving environment to live in. Rule making like this brings to light two governance problems that constantly plague Washington state.
Impractical design is the first.
Take, for example, our roads. We could build all of our roads with guardrails along every square inch, placing beautiful sound barriers, bike lanes and walking paths along them. We could ensure every drop of water runoff is completely purified, every plant is preserved and every animal has a safe route across. But doing all of this would not be practical. If we set about to build every road this way, almost no roads would be built at all because we couldn’t afford the enormous costs. Our economy would be harmed, and as a result, people would be harmed.
The point of the example is that we need to build our roads with practical design in mind. Besides basic roads, the question is what else is needed for a reasonable level of safety and preservation of our environment? If we go too far beyond practical design, we start causing more harm than good. We start inhibiting people’s ability to get to their workplace, their school, a hospital or wherever else they are trying to go.
We make practical choices in our personal lives when we decide to do a home project ourselves. We very rarely choose the most expensive way to do it. Instead, we most often choose the most affordable option that will allow us to get the job done with the appropriate amount of aesthetic appeal, energy efficiency and safety.
By mandating the flu shot vaccine for foster parents, the very slight improvement in health safety that may or may not be realized is accompanied by a loss of foster parents from our system, which is far more detrimental to these children in the long run.
All across our government, well-meaning officials are constantly crossing the line, as their additional rules start causing more harm than good. That has to change.
The second governance problem plaguing our state is unelected rule making.
The Department of Labor and Industries should be working to help our businesses succeed. However, I know of case after case where a well-meaning department administrator has created or reinterpreted a rule, making it unnecessarily more difficult for businesses to survive, much less thrive. And that administrator is unlikely to change said rule, even if business owners and legislators point out the pain it is causing.
Legislation is often the only recourse available for changing specific rules. It is remarkable that one unelected administrator can make a rule that detrimentally affects thousands of Washingtonians, and it takes 76 elected officials to change that rule (50 state representatives, 25 state senators and the governor). Doesn’t that seem contrary to how our founders intended our state to be governed?
I tried every way I could think of to get DSHS to roll back its flu shot requirement, but finally had to draft a bill to attempt to get 76 officials to overturn it. This is not the way our state should run, and I believe a majority of legislators on both sides of the aisle agree.
Rep. Mark Hargrove is serving in his third term as a state representative for the 47th Legislative District. He has lived in the Covington-Kent-Auburn area for more than 27 years. He can be contacted at 360-786-7918 or email@example.com. For updates, visit his website at www.representativemarkhargrove.com.