Dear Friends and Neighbors,
My second legislative session as your 4th District state representative began on Monday. This year is the short, 60-day session. While the session is only two months long, there are a number of important issues to address.
This year's session is operating “virtually” just like last year, with most of the operations taking place online via Zoom and Teams. Only a few designated House members are allowed to access the House floor for debating and voting. Legislators participating on the floor must verify their vaccination status and also have a booster shot. The House operation plan was supported the Democratic majority party, while House Republicans were pushing for at least one-third of the legislators being able to be present.
Legislators and staff working on the Capitol campus are required to undergo testing for COVID on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. All committee hearings will also be held online.
This is frustrating and disappointing. There is a lack of transparency and accountability with session operating online and no public access. Kids are back in school, most people go to work every day, and sporting events are taking place with thousands of people in attendance. The Legislature should be able to meet in-person to conduct the people's business.
Long-Term Care Act
I have been keeping you updated on the long-term care insurance tax passed by the Democrats in 2019. In November, House Republicans officially called for the repeal of the program.
We have introduced a number of bills to modify or delay this law, including House Bill 1594, which would fully repeal the program and payroll tax. House Bill 1913 would repeal the long-term care mandate and replace it with an affordable and optional alternative. House Democrats have offered their own alternatives in House Bill 1732, which delays the tax and program, and House Bill 1733, which offers some exemptions. The House may vote on those bills on today (Friday). For more information on the Long-Term Care Act click here.
Budget and tax relief
Despite the pandemic, Washington state's revenue, tax collections from you the taxpayer, have remained strong. Along with the record revenues, state spending has nearly doubled over the last decade. This year, the governor has proposed a large supplemental operating budget, increasing spending by 19% over the 2019-21 operating budget or $8.8 billion over the next four years.
With the increase in spending there have been substantial tax increases passed by the majority party. I am advocating for tax relief. There is a budget surplus of 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. House Republicans have introduced property tax relief legislation, 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.
Emergency powers reform
Washington state has been under a “state of emergency” and one-person rule for almost two years. Our state government was never intended for this governor, or any other governor, to wield that kind of power. We continue to push for emergency powers reform.
There are a number of bills to amend or limit the governor's emergency powers. Last year, I co-sponsored House Bill 1381, which would limit the governor's emergency powers to 14 days after a state of emergency proclamation, unless extended by the Legislature from a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. If the Legislature is not in session, a special session could be called to extend the proclamation.
This week, a new bill with bipartisan support was introduced – House Bill 1772. This would increase the Legislature's involvement in gubernatorial proclamations relating to a state of emergency. Our leadership has sent a letter to House Speaker Laurie Jinkins requesting passage of this legislation.
Both these bills are reasonable proposals to address the disparity between the executive and legislative branches we have experienced during the pandemic.
Click here for more on our efforts to address emergency powers.
Fixing the police reforms
Following the Defund the Police movement, the majority party passed police reforms last session. However, the reforms have made our communities less safe. Law enforcement across the state have indicated the new laws have tied their hands. The standards for arrests and pursuits are unrealistic. They have also lost tools related to de-escalation tactics. House Republicans have introduced a package of bills to address concerns and prioritize public safety in our communities.
House Bill 1567 – Improving emergency preparedness. With the pandemic and recent extreme weather events, I am working on getting a public hearing on my HB 1567. The legislation would have the Washington State Military Department conduct a study to determine the quantity of commodities needed to supply citizens with necessary emergency supplies – such as food, medicine and personal protective equipment – for at least a year. The study would also include recommendations on how the state could support local businesses through the procurement practices for the stockpile.
House Bill 1923 – Protecting the parent-child relationship. This legislation would ensure there is sufficient evidence of abuse to remove a child from his/her home rather than reasonable belief abuse may be occurring. Also, it shortens the time a child can be held from 72 hours to 24 unless a court order has been ordered for continued shelter care.
House Bill 1977 – Relating to the public disclosure of guardianship training curriculum and materials. All training curriculum and materials for certified professional guardianship courses or programs of a public agency are not exempt from public disclosure and must be available for copying or disclosure.
House Bill 1693 – Recognizing May 1 as home-school day. The pandemic has caused a great deal of uncertainty surrounding students in Washington state. Thousands of parents have chosen to temporarily or permanently use home-schooling to ensure their children's safety and provide them with a quality education. Many from all backgrounds have been well-served through home-schooling options. With that, I want to recognize and celebrate our home schoolers with May 1 being recognized as home-school day.
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 do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns on legislative or state issues. Your input and feedback is important to me.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you!