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I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
I, along with all legislators, will be under election-year restrictions from Dec. 1 until Jan. 10, so I will not be able to send out email updates or newsletters during that timeframe. However, I can still reply to emails, mail, phone messages or other direct communications. So, please do not hesitate to contact me. I appreciate your questions, comments and feedback on the many difficult issues our state is facing.
Virtual Town Hall, Saturday, Jan. 10 at 4 p.m.
Mark your calendars. Sen. Jeff Wilson, Rep. Jim Walsh and I have scheduled a Virtual Town Hall the first week of the legislative session. It will be a great opportunity for you to hear how the session starts and what issues are on the agenda early on in the process. Details are below.
19th District Virtual Town Hall
Saturday, Jan. 15
4 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Space is limited to the first 500 attendees, so register early. I am looking forward to our visit and answering your questions.
Redistricting – unfinished business
The Washington State Redistricting Commission was not able to meet their midnight deadline on Nov. 15 to complete the redrawing of our state legislative and congressional districts. The responsibility is now in the hands of the state Supreme Court. The court has until April 30 to draw new boundaries or they could agree to what the commission came up with as the deadline passed. The 19th District would look much different than it does now under the last proposal put forward by the commission. The commission's last plan shows that the 19th District would gain more of west Lewis County and a tiny bit of Thurston County.
To check out the differences, click here for the 19th District map established by the commission in 2012, and click here for the last proposed legislative map. It does not have individual district maps but you can enlarge the map to get an idea of the proposed boundaries. You can also check out the final proposed congressional and legislative maps here and use the interactive dashboard for more information.
I am hopeful the court moves forward in a timely manner so elected officials and citizens have some certainty in the months ahead.
Long-term care tax
I have heard from many of you regarding the long-term care payroll tax that is to fund the Washington Cares program and is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. This tax was passed by the Democratic majority in 2019. It is flawed public policy. I expect many bills in the upcoming session will be introduced to amend or repeal this program. A few of the reasons we need to address this legislation include:
- The lifetime benefit of only $36,500 is much less than what many people will pay into the program.
- It would likely only cover a few months of long-term care.
- People who work in Washington, but live in another state, will pay into the program, but will not be able to use it.
- You cannot take your benefits with you, meaning if you choose to move from Washington after you retire, you cannot use it.
- The opt-out window of just a couple months was way too short for many people to act.
- Many people who wanted to purchase a private plan were not able to before the deadline.
- The Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Commission has expressed concern whether the program is actuarily viable. That could mean higher taxes to fund the program.
There seems to be bipartisan support to make changes, but we will have to wait and see what those changes look like during the session. Check out our webpage for more information on this issue.
I have shared many times my desire, along with my House Republican colleagues, to make changes to our state's emergency power laws. Washington has been under one-person rule for more than 620 days now. Our state government was not intended to operate this way. I am hopeful some legislators from across the aisle would also like more input and an opportunity to provide a voice for their constituency, instead of continuing to allow Gov. Inslee to make all the decisions through proclamation during the pandemic.
For more on our efforts to address emergency powers reform click here.
Earlier this month, the governor announced plans to follow President Biden's vaccine mandate for private employers with more than 100 employees. The president's proposal would require employees to be vaccinated or submit to COVID testing. Unlike our governor's mandates, employees could choose testing instead of getting vaccinated and would not be terminated from their employment for choosing not to get the COVID vaccination.
The good news is a couple of weeks ago, Biden's vaccine requirement was put on hold by a federal appeals court. However, the Biden administration on Tuesday requested the pause on his business vaccine mandate to be lifted. While no decision has been made, it is very likely this ends up before the U.S. Supreme Court. We will also have to wait and see what action our governor takes. Will he follow the president's lead or continue to govern on his own like he has done throughout the pandemic?
I have heard from thousands of you this interim concerned about the vaccination and mask mandates. You know where I stand, as I will continue to work to protect your privacy, freedoms and individual rights when they are threatened. Our governor and state government do not have the right to mandate what you are putting in your body.
While there will be many important issues before us in the 2022 legislative session, four areas we will be paying particular attention to include:
Public safety: The Democratic majority's recent policies have made our communities less safe and are driving good law enforcement officers out of the profession at a time when we need them most. We are working on legislation to fix the disastrous police reform bills passed last session and potentially looking into a funding program to promote law enforcement and corrections recruitment efforts.
Life affordability: It is time to look at meaningful tax relief and policies that help address some of the financial struggles many families, small businesses, senior citizens and those on a fixed income are facing.
Just last week, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council unveiled another strong state revenue forecast. The upcoming session is a good opportunity to return some of the revenue dollars back to the taxpayers as folks deal with inflation, increasing fuel prices and the economic circumstances surrounding the pandemic.
There are property tax relief proposals we can look at, including House Bill 1358, and we could look at expanding the Working Families Tax Credit just to name a couple of ideas.
Government accountability: We must hold our governor and state agencies accountable. That includes addressing emergency powers reform as I mentioned earlier in this update. There needs to be a balance of power in Olympia. We have many bills in the system ready to go when the session starts. Click “What are House Republicans doing to reform the governor's emergency powers?” for more information.
Being accountable also includes state spending. The majority party has increased spending by about 70% since Gov. Inslee was elected in 2012 (see chart). We have legislation ready to go, House Bill 1177, that would implement a periodic review of state spending programs.
We need to look at programs or issues that our state government continues to throw money at with no results. An example of this would be the homelessness crisis.
Empowering parents: Finally, over the last 18 months, as it has felt like the government has been involved in our lives more than ever, we need to empower our parents. We can do that by expanding the number of charter schools in our state, and creating more transparency in the development of learning standards and in the classroom. Parents should deserve to have input in their children's education.
These are just a few of the issues we will be focused on when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 10 for the 60-day session. Click here for more on our solutions.
Keep in mind, it is a short session and it will go fast. With that in mind, I urge you to stay engaged. Below are a few websites or links that will help you keep tabs on what is happening in Olympia.
- My legislative website: You will find my contact information, bio, news releases, email updates, and other information.
- How you can be involved in the legislative process: This includes a citizen's guide to effective legislative participation.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online.
- The Ledger: A legislative news aggregator that is updated frequently.
- Capitol Buzz: Sent out each weekday, featuring stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- 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.
Please let me know if you have any questions about this email update or the upcoming legislative session. Your input and feedback is appreciated.
It is an honor and privilege to represent the 19th District!
Your Humble Servant,
409 John L. O’Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7870 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000