We are almost two-thirds of the way through the 60-day legislative session. Tuesday marked the house of origin cutoff. We have spent part of our time addressing issues created by Democrats in previous sessions. I provide an overview of some of those issues and many others happening in the Legislature in this update. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Long-term care tax and program
The Democrats' controversial long-term care insurance program and payroll tax — also called the WA Cares Fund — gained much attention this year as its implementation approached. People became aware of the many flaws and it was deeply unpopular.
To address the problems, two bills were fast-tracked through the Legislature. The first, House Bill 1732, delays implementation of the program by 18 months and moves premium collections out to July 1, 2023. I voted against this legislation. It does not fix the problems. It only postpones the flawed program. The second, House Bill 1733, creates four new voluntary exemptions from the program. I also opposed this legislation. Again, it doesn't solve any of the concerns, but only allows more exemptions.
Emergency powers reform
Washington has been in a “state of emergency” (SOE) for more than 715 days. House Republicans have pushed for emergency powers reform since the pandemic began in 2020. This web page highlights what we have done and continue to do.
Legislation on emergency powers gaining some traction. Senate Bill 5909 would allow the Speaker of the House, the House minority leader, and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate to end a state of emergency (SOE) if the Legislature is not in session and it has been more than 90 days since the governor's declaration. It would also allow legislative leaders to end the governor's prohibitive orders if the Legislature is not in session. It does not go far enough. However, it is a start. The Senate has sent the bill to the House. I am hopeful we can improve the bill. House Republicans had a stronger solution in House Bill 1772. More than 5,200 people signed in for the public hearing, most in favor of the legislation, but it died in committee.
Reforming police reforms
We are also working to fix the problems the majority party created when they passed anti-police legislation, House Bills 1310 and 1054 last session. Most agree these bills are flawed. Republicans even called for a special session last summer to fix them. We are seeing the consequences of these almost daily in news across the state.
The House did pass House Bill 2037, which would modify the standard for use of force by peace officers, but I voted “no.” The bill doesn't go far enough and there is a Senate version law enforcement prefers. I am hopeful we can get that measure through the Legislature. This is a public safety issue for all of our communities in Washington state.
It is also critical for state lawmakers to pass House Bill 1788. It is the measure that would allow police officers to engage in vehicular pursuits when there is reasonable suspicion that someone in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense, and is attempting to escape, or is driving under the influence. We are awaiting this bill to come before us on the House floor.
Republicans introduced a comprehensive package of legislation early in the session we believe would address many of the concerns we have heard from law enforcement and our communities during the interim. The Safe Washington Plan is focused on preventing crime, supporting law enforcement, putting victims first, and addressing the State v. Blake decision.
Where is the tax relief?
A legislative priority for House Republicans is to help make life more affordable for our citizens. We have a great opportunity to provide meaningful tax relief — at a time when people need it the most. Today (Wednesday) the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council provided another strong February revenue forecast.
Even with the pandemic, Washington is looking at a four-year operating budget surplus of somewhere in the $13-$14 billion range, with another $2.2 billion in various reserves, and $1.2 billion in unspent emergency stimulus funds – this despite record spending, and our state operating budget almost doubling in the last decade. (See chart below.)
Knowing before the session we would have a budget surplus, healthy reserves, and unspent federal stimulus funds, House Republicans prepared tax relief proposals early in the legislative session such as:
- Lower property taxes
- Expand the Working Families Tax Credit
- Alleviate consumer inflation
- Repeal and replace the long-term care insurance program and payroll tax
Unfortunately, House Democrats would not give any of these bills a public hearing. There is always a chance fiscal we could get some tax relief in the budgets or a budget-related bill. However, the majority party does not seem interested in tax relief this session.
Second Amendment rights under attack
There are two bills moving through the Legislature related to guns that are concerning. The Senate recently passed Senate Bill 5078, the so-called “high-capacity magazine” bill, which would ban firearms magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
In the House, the Democratic majority passed House Bill 1705, or the “ghost gun” bill. This legislation would keep target shooters and gun enthusiasts from participating in their hobby of assembling their own firearms from various parts. The majority's attempt to go after ghost guns isn't feasible since these guns cannot be traced because they don't contain specific serial numbers. The worst of this legislation may be that it is retroactive to 2019, meaning many gun owners would be forced to turn over their guns or potentially face charges. I don't think this is enforceable or constitutional. I opposed this bill and will continue to vote against any legislation that infringes on our Second Amendment rights.
Majority party's transportation plan
Democratic lawmakers recently unveiled their transportation proposal. It's a 16-year package with anticipated revenues of $16.8 billion. It is a very partisan proposal as Republicans were left out of the negotiating process. I am also concerned that the proposal would:
- increase fees as much as $2.3 billion on things such as car/motorcycle license plates and driver's licenses.
- allocate $3 billion for maintenance and preservation while the Washington State Department of Transportation has indicated they need $10 billion over 10 years to catch up on maintenance and preservation.
- require vehicle owners and drivers to pay more for non-driver related modes of transportation, as it is heavy on transit.
- only allow electric vehicles to be purchased, sold, or registered in Washington state after vehicle model year 2030.
Finally, there is very little money for the 19th District in this plan. Along with my seatmates, I am looking at options to include funding or projects from our region in the plan.
House Republicans introduced a plan in December that would modernize transportation funding by utilizing the general fund, preserving and maintaining our existing infrastructure, working to complete the backlog of projects, and redirecting vehicle sales tax to transportation projects – all without raising taxes and fees on anyone or anything. We take a new approach to transportation. It was at least worthy of negotiating with us on our proposal, instead of offering something so partisan.
The House Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing on the resources or “tax and fee” portion of their transportation budget on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Click here to sign up and testify. Click here to comment on this bill.
Nurse staffing legislation
At the end of session, I will give an overview of some of the good and bad bills that made it through the legislative process, as well as those we were able to stop. One bill that has many of our rural area hospitals concerned is the nurse staffing bill, House Bill 1868. This doesn't solve our nursing shortage and could put hospitals in a difficult situation. Rep. Walsh and I spoke against the measure. Click here to listen to our speeches during the floor debate. Unfortunately, it passed the House by a vote of 55-43 and is now in the Senate for further consideration.
Sign up for legislative text alerts
You can now receive the latest news and information from the Legislature directly to your cell phone. Sign up for the new text alert system we have created. Just click here or on the image below to sign up.
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns about this email update or anything else happening this legislative session. Your input and feedback is appreciated.
It is an honor and privilege to represent the 19th District!
Your Humble Servant,