I officially began my legislative duties on Monday, Jan. 11. It was inspiring and humbling to be in the Capitol building on opening day, but it was also a little disappointing to not have family and friends share the experience.
You may have heard, the Legislature is convening “virtually” this year. Lawmakers met in Olympia on the opening day to vote on how the House would operate during the 2021 session. While Republicans fought for a more open and transparent session, majority-party Democrats passed House Resolution 4600, on a party-line vote, 55-39. The rules mean the session will be conducted remotely using teleconferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
House Republicans are concerned about transparency and accessibility with a virtual session. We want to be sure our voices, as well as the public's are being heard.
Governor's emergency powers
At the end of the first week, House Republicans debated and voted against Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402. This resolution bundles 26 proclamations from the governor and extends them until the end of the state of emergency, or until the governor or Legislature rescinds the resolution.
The issue is not the proclamations, or the policies they cover, but the broad emergency powers this continues to give the governor with little oversight or input.
This is unacceptable. Our state government should not be managed by one person for so long. Lawmakers are in session and are in a position to be part of the decision-making process, just as the citizens of Washington elected us to do. Unfortunately, the resolution passed 54-44, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting against it.
I am serving on three committees this session. I have been appointed the assistant ranking Republican on the House Capital Budget Committee. It is exciting to serve in a leadership position for our caucus on one of the three state budget committees. The capital budget focuses on bricks and mortar type projects for our K-12 schools, colleges, local governments and communities, while also protecting our farms, waterways and environment.
I am also serving on the Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. This is a great fit for me and the 19th District given the importance of natural resources, farming and rural economic development to our region.
My final committee appointment, the Education Committee, allows me to use my perspective as an educator and parent on the education issues that come before us.
Contrast in early session priorities
Maybe the biggest eye-opener early on in the session is the stark difference on priorities between Majority Democrats and Republicans. We are less than two weeks in and the majority party has already proposed a number of tax increases including:
- House Democrats gas tax plan, unveiled earlier this week, would increase the tax on gas by 18 cents a gallon and add a new fee on carbon emissions to pay for a nearly $26 billion transportation package. It would give Washington the highest gas tax in the nation (we are currently third).
- Senate Bill 5096 would enact a 9% income tax on capital gains as small as $25,000.
- House Bill 1091, the majority party's Low Carbon Fuel Standard legislation, at the request of the governor, would authorize the state Department of Ecology to create a clean fuels program, which could increase the cost of gasoline by 57 cents per gallon and diesel by 63 cents per gallon. This is a regressive tax that would hurt our economy and do little to benefit our environment and economy.
We do not need to be considering tax increases, especially during a pandemic. We need to get people back to work, businesses reopened, and kids back in school. House Republicans are focused on doing just that.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary recently introduced the REAL Recovery for Washington Act (House Bill 1334), which would provide immediate financial support to struggling families and businesses, accelerate the safe reopening of schools, and expand COVID testing and vaccine administration. To learn more click here. Republicans have also introduced legislation that would:
- suspend B&O tax collections; until April 1 and allow payment with 0% interest over 3 months;
- provide $5,000 credit for businesses on their B&O liability;
- unemployment insurance tax relief;
- providing additional assistance to tenants and rental homeowners; and
- move Washington counties to Phase 2 of the governor's pandemic plan.
I am also working to protect your 2nd Amendment rights as the Attorney General is pushing anti-gun bills, including House Bill 1229 – defining assault weapons and House Bill 1164 – prohibiting large capacity magazines. In rural Washington, the 2nd Amendment isn't just a Constitutional right. It is a way of life. People of rural Washington will not lie down and allow these bad policies to pass without harsh scrutiny and our voices being heard by those in elected office.
No more title-only bills
I have introduced my first bill. It would eliminate title-only or “ghost bills.” This has become a big problem the last few years. In the past, legislators have introduced title-only bills with no content, amended them later with the bill text and rushed them through the legislative process before the public had a chance to review or comment on the legislation. Check out my news release here or the article in the The Daily Chronicle, “Push to end title-only bills in state Legislature renewed.”
With this year's session being “virtual” is critical for people to stay engaged and follow the Legislature. Remote testimony becomes much more important this year and it is open to all committees.
To testify remotely or submit written testimony in the House of Representatives, click here.
To testify remotely or submit written testimony for bills being heard in the Senate, click here.
Click here for further information on accessing the Legislature remotely. Here are some additional links that will be helpful to follow the session:
- The Ledger – a legislative news aggregator
- Capitol Buzz – Daily news clips
- Committee schedules, agendas and documents
- How a bill becomes a law
Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or comments on issues before us. I look forward to keeping you updated during the session.
It is an honor to serve you!
Your Humble Servant,