Last Monday, Aug. 9, the governor announced COVID vaccine mandates for most state employees and health care workers or they could lose their jobs if they cannot show proof they have been vaccinated. Employees have the opportunity to apply for religious or medical exemptions, but the governor's and state government's involvement is unnecessary and likely unconstitutional. They have no business mandating what the people of Washington are putting in their bodies. This so-called mandate crosses lines of privacy, individual rights and freedoms.
The unfortunate part of the governor's announcement is that he is doing this under the guise of “emergency powers,” which we repeatedly tried to address and amend during the session. State lawmakers should have a role in these decisions. Republicans have continually asked for a special session to address this issue and others as you will read below.
The governor's decision does not affect our K-12 or higher education system. For more information on who is impacted, review the governor's FAQ page on his announcement here.
Regarding our K-12 system, I recently signed onto a letter sent to the governor requesting he reconsider his mandatory mask mandate for all schools this fall. The letter urges him to give more weight to local control and parental input. I am tired of the one-size-fits-all mandates coming out of Olympia. Their politics are much different than those in the 19th District. You can read the letter here.
Recent figures released from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs show that crime increased overall in 2020. The report also shows that Washington is ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand people. Other eye-opening statistics:
- Murders were up almost 47% and have increased overall 67% since 2016.
- Reported cases of officers assaulted was up 6% in 2020 and has increased 67% since 2016.
The report came out earlier this summer just as the police reforms passed by the Democratic majority party were going into effect. If you have been following the news over the last month or so, you have seen the stories. It is clear the controversial legislation is threatening the public safety of our communities across Washington state. That is what we are hearing from our law enforcement officials and seeing it happen right in front of us. House Republicans opposed House Bill 1310 and House Bill 1054 for that very reason. To see the many stories, news releases, editorials from across the state on this issue check out our webpage: Why Democrats' police reform bills have made communities less safe.
Our mental health and social worker professionals are also greatly impacted by this legislation. Under the new police reforms, law enforcement officers no longer respond to certain calls such as mental-health related concerns, checking on someone's welfare, civil disputes and suspicious person reports. Our mental health and social service professionals are not prepared, nor do they want to handle some of these emergency calls that put their safety at risk.
Legislative Republicans have called for a special session to fix the problems caused by the police reform bills. You can read the statement from Senate Republican Leader John Braun and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox here. We are working on real solutions to keep our communities safe.
New payroll tax to fund long-term care program
Some of you are aware of the mandatory payroll tax passed by the Democratic majority party in 2019 that is supposed to take effect soon and fund a new state long-term care program, called the WA Cares Fund. To address the many inquiries House Republicans are receiving on this issue, we created a new web page to help you answer some of your questions.
Long-term care is important, but this tax should not be mandated. This plan is flawed. You only receive up to $100 per day for a maximum lifetime benefit of $36,500 (adjusted annually). The benefit is available only for care provided for Washington residents and is not transferable. So, if you move to another state, you will lose whatever you've paid into the system. Also, if you retire within the next 10 years, you will not receive a benefit for your contribution because you must work 500 hours per year for 10 years.
If you do not want to pay the payroll tax, you must opt-out and purchase a qualified long-term care insurance plan before Nov. 1, 2021. Do not wait until the opt-out period to secure private insurance. With the underwriting process insurance companies go through, it could take three months and you could miss the opt-out window.
Do we need to do a better job at long-term care planning? Sure. Unfortunately, this program is not the answer. It is poor policy.
Check out these two stories for more on the decisions many Washington workers are facing:
- Deadline coming on Washington long-term care: private or state plan (AP)
- Long-term care tax looms for nearly all Washington workers (Columbia Basin Herald)
You may also be interested in this article: Founder and president of region's largest private employer Dr. Ed Schweitzer urging Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to terminate new 'payroll tax' (KQQQ)
Please continue to stay engaged. Now more than ever, we need to make our voices heard on these critical issues. I want to hear from you, but I urge you to contact the governor's office if you have concerns with his actions, especially under his emergency power authority. The legislators from all 49 diverse districts in Washington deserve to be part of the decision-making process and help make your voices heard.
Below are a few websites to follow during the interim to keep up on state government news. They include:
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process. It is updated frequently.
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session and every month during the interim.
It is an honor and privilege to represent the 19th District!
Your Humble Servant,