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The gavel banged down on Monday to officially start the 2022 legislative session. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives is operating “virtually” and the legislative session will be very similar to last year. Only a few designated House members will be allowed to access the House floor to debate and vote. All committee hearings will also be virtual.
It is disappointing. The Legislature should be able to follow public health guidelines while meeting in-person to conduct the people's business. Our children are going to school and many others are going to work every day. However, the state House of Representatives will be conducting their business remotely via Zoom and Teams. This is not the transparent and accountable way our state government should be functioning.
Virtual Town Hall – Saturday, Jan. 15
On Saturday, Sen. Jeff Wilson, Rep. Jim Walsh and I are holding a Virtual Town Hall. We will provide a review of the first week of session and take your questions on legislative and state issues impacting our communities. You can register here. There are more details below.
Space is limited to the first 500 attendees, so register early. You can submit questions ahead of time when you register. I look forward to our visit.
Emergency powers reform: House Republicans continue to push for emergency powers reform. The governor has been operating under the “state of emergency” for almost two years. This needs to change. House Bill 1772 is the latest proposal introduced. A few things the bill would do include:
- allow the Legislature to pass a concurrent resolution declaring the termination of a state of emergency;
- terminate the state of emergency 60 days after being signed by the governor, unless extended by the Legislature by a concurrent resolution; and
- prohibit the governor from reinstating the same or substantively similar state of emergency when the original has expired.
This legislation has a number of other provisions in it to address emergency powers. For more information on our efforts, check out What are House Republicans doing to reform the governor's emergency powers?
Public safety: Last session, after we witnessed the Defund the Police movement, the Democratic majority passed a package of law enforcement bills that have made our communities less safe. It is driving good law enforcement officers out of the profession at a time when we need them most. In fact, in 2020, Washington ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia in terms of the number of police officers per thousand people. That has been the case for 11 consecutive years!
Some of the legislation passed last year has placed unrealistic standards on law enforcement officials for arrests and pursuits, and taken away too many tools related to de-escalation tactics and equipment. Republicans have introduced legislation that would:
- House Bill 1737: Improve public safety;
- House Bill 1788: Address vehicular pursuits;
- House Bill 1787: Provide funding for the recruitment, retention, and support of law enforcement officers; and
- House Bill 1656: Change the definition of theft.
Long-term care insurance and payroll tax: This is flawed public policy. More than 443,000 workers tried to get out of the program through an exemption, while thousands more wanted to opt-out, but could not, because they were unable to secure a qualified policy before the deadline. There are a number of bills to modify or delay this law, including House Bill 1594, which would fully repeal the program and payroll tax. Democrats have acknowledged changes need to be made to the policy they passed in 2019. Whether they support a full repeal is uncertain. Republicans have been calling for a full repeal for many months. I will keep you updated on this issue.
Budget and tax relief: The majority party has passed substantial tax increases the last few years. At a time when families are dealing with inflation and an increase of prices on goods and services, I am advocating for tax relief. There is a massive budget surplus, almost $9 billion, more than $2 billion in reserves, and $1.2 billion in unspent federal stimulus money. The Legislature should return some of those tax dollars to you, the taxpayer. One proposal House Republicans have put forth is property tax relief, House Bill 1358. I will be supporting this bill and other policies that would help struggling families, students, small business owners, and the most vulnerable.
For more on our House Republican solutions click here.
Assisting small schools with capital finances
In our region and across the state, there are many small schools that are unable to access state funding for construction. It may be due to a lack of bond capacity, or the property tax increase of a bond measure could be difficult to withstand. So how do we assist these schools? A constituent had an idea on how we can make it happen.
House Bill 1775 would provide funding for small school districts through a grant process based on need. The model we have now allows some communities easier access for construction of quality school buildings than other communities that have consistently failed to pass construction bonds. School districts would receive a score based on certain criteria. The grant dollars would go to the school district whose score reflects the most need. Projects eligible for grant funding must correct critical physical deficiencies or essential safety concerns. That includes modernizing, repairing, reconfiguring, or replacing existing buildings and construction of new buildings.
Other bills of interest I am co-sponsoring include:
House Bill 1695 would change how the Legislature establishes its operating procedures, making it more transparent and accountable to the public.
House Bill 1696 would ensure no legislator is prohibited from accessing the legislative buildings. My seatmate, Rep. Jim Walsh, is the prime sponsor of both these bills.
House Bill 1828 would require QR codes on every ballot, allowing voters to track and view their returned ballots. With all the talk of election integrity, allowing voters to follow their ballot through the process until it is counted could help alleviate concerns of our elections being secure.
Last year, many of you stayed engaged during the virtual session, and after. My office received thousands of emails, messages and phone calls on a variety of issues. With the Legislature in another virtual session, and the importance of some of the issues coming before us, please continue to contact me with any questions, concerns or comments you have. I appreciate the input and feedback, as it helps me represent you in the Legislature.
Here are some websites and links that will help you stay engaged this legislative session.
- The Ledger – a legislative news aggregator
- Capitol Buzz – Daily news clips
- How you can be involved in the legislative process
- How to comment on a bill
- Committee Sign-In – Remote Testimony
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,
409 John L. O’Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7870 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000