Partisan divide on COVID policy widens in state legislatures

FILE - House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, is displayed on video screens as he speaks remotely following opening remarks from House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, during the opening session of the Washington state House, Jan. 10, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - In Democratic-led Washington state, just four lawmakers were present in the 98-member House this week as they convened a mostly remote session with an abundance of caution. Anyone working there is required to be tested for COVID-19 three days a week and show proof of vaccination - including a booster shot - to step onto the House floor.

By contrast, Missouri's Republican-led Legislature began a fully in-person session with no COVID-19 screening at the Capitol and no requirement to be vaccinated or wear masks. One week into their session, lawmakers already have filed nearly three dozen bills banning, discouraging or providing exemptions from vaccination requirements.

The differing approaches highlight a persistent partisan gap in pandemic policy as states begin a third year of legislative sessions amid a virus outbreak that many had assumed would be waning but is instead surging to