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The 2022 legislative session adjourned sine die on Thursday, March 10. I expected more bipartisanship and collaboration in my first term. Being mostly virtual the last two years certainly played a part in that, but there was a lack of willingness to work together, especially on high-profile issues. It made it difficult to address our Republican priorities.
The operating budget, the Democrats' Move Ahead Washington transportation package and bills threatening Second Amendment rights were just some of the legislation that either passed on partisan lines or had bipartisan opposition. I look forward to future sessions when we can sit down face-to-face, have conversations, and work together. The 49 legislative districts in our state are very different. We are better off when we can all provide input on the issues impacting our communities across Washington state.
I cover a lot of issues in this end-of-session review. I hope you will contact me with any questions, concerns or comments. It has been an honor to represent you in Olympia the last two years.
Naselle Youth Camp
The state's Naselle Youth Camp in Pacific County is an important facility for at-risk youth. It gives teens or young adults an opportunity to gain some structure in their life while obtaining a high school degree or GED. Unfortunately, the majority party in Olympia has defunded the camp in the final budget agreement between House and Senate Democrats, despite efforts from Rep. Jim Walsh to make sure it was funded. It was an end-of-session sneaky move and very disappointing. What will happen with the at-risk youth with the closure? The governor has not signed the budget, so he could veto that section, but I am not holding out much hope. The behind closed door budget negotiations and politics must end.
Fixing police reforms
Some of our time was spent trying to fix legislation passed in recent sessions, such as the so-called police reforms passed last year that have created a number of problems.
Two bills passed this session address a couple of the issues. House Bill 1735 makes clear the use of force in situations, such as transporting a person for treatment or providing mental health assistance; taking a minor into protective custody; and executing or enforcing an order directing an officer to take someone into custody. House Bill 1719 fixes an oversight that seemed to inadvertently prohibit police departments from possessing certain less-lethal weapons.
There is also House Bill 2037, which awaits the governor's signature, that would provide a more clear definition for our law enforcement officers on the physical use of force. I could not support this bill, or HB 1735, because I do not feel they go far enough in fixing the use of force issues for our law enforcement.
The biggest failure was not restoring the authority for police officers to engage in vehicular pursuits when there is reasonable suspicion. Neglecting to change this policy will continue to have major consequences for public safety in our communities.
With crime surging, public safety will continue to be a priority for Republicans. We introduced a Safe Washington Plan before the session.
Majority party stops debate on emergency powers reform
One of the biggest disappointments of the legislative session was the House Democrats' inaction on emergency powers reform. House Speaker Laurie Jinkins said she was “seeking balance” before the session started. However, when it was all said and done, the imbalance in state government remains as House Democrats did not view emergency powers reform as a priority.
The Senate did pass Senate Bill 5909, and sent it to the House. Most Republicans in the Senate voted “no” because the bill did very little to truly change emergency powers. Democrats did bring the bill up for a vote in the House just after 1 a.m. on March 3. After 20 minutes of debate, the majority party stopped consideration of the bill. We had amendments to strengthen the bill and were prepared to debate the merits of emergency powers reform, but apparently Democrats were not interested in passing the bill.
Washington has been under a “state of emergency” for more than two years, which is unnecessary. Check out this web page that highlights our efforts on this issue over the last two years.
Move Ahead Washington plan
I opposed the Democrats' Move Ahead Washington transportation plan (Senate Bills 5974 and 5975). Republicans were left completely out of the negotiating process on the plan.
- Build state's transportation plans on a bipartisan foundation | The Seattle Times
This partisan package spends about $17 billion over 16 years. It raises fees and taxes by about $2.3 billion on Washington citizens, at a time when we don't need to and there is operating budget surplus we can use. It doesn't adequately address maintenance and preservation needs, while pumping millions of dollars into public transit, bicycle and pedestrian paths, electrification of ferries, and expansion of electric charging stations across Washington.
Finally, it would transfer $57 million a year from the state's Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA). Our local governments rely on this account for local infrastructure projects, such as water and sewer, to improve their communities and economic opportunity. This is the wrong approach.
Republicans introduced their own transportation plan before session. The majority was aware of our plan and could have worked with us on a bipartisan proposal, but they did not.
Record spending with no tax relief
The supplemental operating budget continues a trend of unsustainable spending. It would increase spending to about $65 billion in 2021-23, a $6.1 billion increase over current spending levels. State spending is now $12.5 billion or 24% higher than the 2019-21 levels. As the chart below shows, the state budget has more than doubled in the last decade.
I would add, with the increase in spending, fiscal.wa.gov shows we are now spending more than $18,000 per student. Are we getting our value or a quality education for $18,000 a year for each student?”
Noticeably missing in this budget is meaningful tax relief. This despite a historic $15 billion budget surplus and inflation running at 7.6%, the highest level in more than 40 years. That equates to costing the average household an extra $250 a month. Combine that with the two years of lockdowns and mandates causing financial stress, we are missing the perfect opportunity to provide tax relief for working families.
The SAFE Washington budget framework put together by House Republicans would:
- Cut the state sales tax by a full percentage point.
- Deliver billions of dollars in ongoing funding for transportation projects.
- Reduce B&O taxes on the sectors seeing the highest inflation, including manufacturing, timber, and food processors.
- Repeal the mandatory long-term care tax and replace it with an optional program.
- Rescue the beleaguered Paid Family and Medical Program to avoid another payroll tax increase on employees next year.
- Offer one-time grants to businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, including hotels and restaurants.
- Provide police departments with funding for officer retention and recruitment bonuses.
It would also leave a four-year surplus of $2.1 billion, while the Democrat plan would only leave a small, four-year ending fund balance of $348 million.
While many issues were very partisan this session, the capital budget was not. It was done in a very bipartisan manner and showed we can work together.
As the assistant ranking Republican on the House Capital Budget Committee, I helped negotiate the capital spending plan. The supplemental $1.5 billion capital spending plan builds off of our historic capital budget from last year. It makes significant investments in K-12 school construction, mental health facilities, broadband, school seismic safety, public works, housing, and other long-term investments. There is more than $4.1 million for the 19th District including:
- Veteran Housing and Resource Center (Raymond), $2.3 million;
- Wahkiakum School District facility accessibility needs, $515,000;
- Westport Marina gear yard (Westport), $412,000;
- Pacific County Fair Three M Project (Raymond), $412,000;
- Vandercook Park restroom (Longview), $309,000;
- Longview Senior Center roof and energy upgrades, $273,000;
- Community/Technical College system, minor works, $259,000;
- Community House on Broadway electrical upgrades at its emergency shelter (Longview), $258,000;
- 5970 #1 bridge replacement, $250,000;
- Veteran housing at Stratford Apartments (Longview), $206,000;
- 5973 bridge replacement, $200,000;
- Beaver Creek Hatchery, renovation, $135,000; and
- Rister Stadium elevator lift (Kelso), $33,000.
Second Amendment rights threatened
I mentioned in previous email updates, our Second Amendment rights were under attack. Unfortunately, the majority party passed four bills and the governor recently signed them into law.
- Senate Bill 5078 bans the sale of ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds.
- House Bill 1705 restricts the manufacture and sale of untraceable firearms, or ghost guns, and unfinished frames and receivers.
- House Bill 1630 bans open-carry firearms and other weapons from local government meetings, election sites and off-campus school board meetings.
- House Bill 1901 includes the ability to revoke an individual's firearm rights under certain conditions when there is a civil protection or restraining order in effect.
Criminals will not follow more gun laws. Those who are being penalized are law-abiding citizens and responsible gun owners. I would add, I believe some of the bills are unconstitutional, and will be difficult to enforce.
Visual and performing arts instruction and other good bipartisan legislation
The operating budget does some good things for education. We also passed bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 5878, that ensures school districts offer regular instruction in at least one visual or performing art throughout the academic school year. When students have instruction in the arts, it helps eliminate achievement gaps. The arts are also an authentic pathway for social emotional learning and involvement in the arts can follow them after high school.
I did offer an amendment, and it was adopted, to provide some leniency and balance to the bill, since there is a lack of specialists in the arts. It limits the instruction requirement to schools with more than 200 enrolled students. It also allows a person holding a limited teaching certificate to provide arts instruction, while the district recruits and hires a certificated teacher with or actively pursuing an art endorsement.
Other good bipartisan legislation we passed include:
- HB 1181 – establishes programs and measures to prevent suicide among veterans and military members.
- HB 1015 – creates a loan program for historically underserved communities.
- HB 1623 – requires state regulators to meet with stakeholders to address risks of rolling blackouts due to
inadequate power supply.
- HB 1643 – provides an exemption from the real estate excise tax for certain sales of real property for affordable housing.
- HB 1785 – ensures Washington State Patrol troopers are paid comparable wages to top law enforcement agencies in the state.
- HB 1359 – cuts many liquor license renewal fees in half until Dec. 31, 2023, to help businesses recover after the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 response.
Keep in touch
While the legislative session is over, please remember I am your state representative year-round. I am available to meet with you, tour facilities, or for speaking engagements.
Please let me know if you have any questions about this email update or need assistance navigating state government. My door is always open and I am here to help.
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