Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Legislature adjourned the 60-day short session Sine Die on Thursday, March 12. We were able to appropriate some money to assist with the coronavirus crisis before we adjourned. In this email update, I will share a webpage where you can get accurate and helpful information on the coronavirus situation. I also want to update you on the supplemental budgets passed and legislation that should have people very concerned.
As you are aware, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly spreading through Washington state and the country. Here are some links that may be helpful:
DOH website: doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus
DOH: How can I be prepared?
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction: School closure information
Chelan Douglas Health District: cdhd.wa.gov
Grant County Health District: granthealth.org
Okanogan County Public Health: okanogancounty.org/ocph/
One of the last pieces of legislation uses $175 million from the rainy day fund for state and local agencies to fight the disease, as well as $25 million for a new COVID-19 unemployment account. It will allow employers who have employees receiving unemployment insurance benefits because of the virus outbreak to have those charges be reimbursed by the state. With the uncertainty surrounding the virus and the shutdown of our small businesses, we want to be mindful of the devastating impact this could have on them.
The legislation also allows the state Board of Education to grant emergency waivers to high school students who won't be able to meet certain graduation requirements if their schools are closed for an extended time.
If you have questions, you can call the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) at 1-800-525-0127 and press #. Please click here for much more information and helpful links. We have compiled a number of resources to help answer any concerns and questions you may have.
I voted against the supplemental operating budget. It addresses some important issues such as behavioral health, homelessness and early learning. However, it spends too much, doesn't save enough, and is unsustainable, especially given the uncertainty and impact the coronavirus may have on our economy and communities. It spends most of the tax revenue windfall coming into the state I mentioned in my last email update. We are not equipped to handle an impending economic downturn.
With this budget, spending has increased about 73% since 2013. The increase is not fiscally responsible. From the last biennium alone, spending has increased 20%. See chart below. The budget passed on a party-line vote with all Democrats voting “yea” and Republicans voting “no.”
Unlike the supplemental operating budget, the supplemental transportation budget was bipartisan. We did face some challenges due to the shortfall caused by I-976, but both parties and chambers worked together to prioritize special needs transportation, ensure projects were taken off hold that had been paused by the governor, and make a minimal impact to preservation and maintenance.
Republicans had asked that the will of the voters be honored by implementing $30 car tabs into law. While we were not able to get it through the legislative process, the court has upheld the initiative. We will still need to wait and see how the Department of Licensing and Department of Revenue move forward on this issue.
I would add, that we will be faced with some tough decisions ahead as we need to work on finding additional revenue for future transportation infrastructure needs.
The supplemental capital budget is an important piece of our legislative process in advocating for projects that will benefit the communities in our district. It contains bricks and mortar type projects for our K-12 schools, colleges, local governments and community projects where funding may be difficult to come by. It also focuses on stewardship projects protecting our farmlands, waterways and environment.
This year's budget addresses priority areas such as mental health and early learning. We were also able to secure funding for projects in the 12th District including:
- The Parkside Place Project in Wenatchee;
- Anderson road infrastructure in Chelan;
- Bridgeport irrigation in Brewster;
- Renewable hydrogen production pilot in East Wenatchee; and
- Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center in Wenatchee.
Clean energy legislation dies in Senate
We pride ourselves on clean energy in North Central Washington. With that, I am disappointed my House Bill 2825 that would provide a tax incentive for those who use oil-free hydroelectric turbines did not make it through the legislative process.
It looked like we had reached an agreement in the last few days and it passed the House 93-4, only to die in the Senate. Our utility districts could have benefited from this oil-free technology as we continue to advance our clean energy hydropower system in North Central Washington.
We need to listen to the people
This session, we have seen a number of bills that go against what the people of Washington are telling us. Below are some examples of the majority party not listening to our citizens.
Comprehensive sex education bill (Senate Bill 5395): I have received thousands of emails against the comprehensive sex education legislation and very few supporting it. More than 600 people attended the public hearing in the House Education Committee to testify against it. Republicans debated the bill for more than six hours in the House. Click here to watch my floor speech.
Just last week, there were hundreds of people at the Capitol to protest the bill and request the governor veto the measure. Despite the public outcry, it is expected that the governor will sign the bill into law and all students will have to take an approved sex education class starting in the 2022-23 school year. Review the approved curriculum by Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for yourself.
Office of equity (House Bill 1783): This creates the Washington State Office of Equity. Everyone needs to be treated equitably, but this simply creates more state agency bureaucracy. It is difficult to determine why it is different than the many other commissions we already have in place in our state to ensure equality and equity issues. This flies in the face of voters who rejected Referendum 88, including a majority in our district.
Low-carbon fuel standard (House Bill 1110): This passed the House, but did not make it out of the Senate. This would have increased the costs of gas, diesel, goods and services, while having very little benefit for air quality. Washingtonians have made it clear how they feel about a carbon tax and a carbon fee, by voting against it twice already (I-732 and I-1631) in the last five years.
More taxes on business: Last year, Democrats passed massive new and increased taxes. The first bill passed this session was a business and occupation (B&O) tax increase, Senate Bill 6492, fast-tracked through the legislative process in 10 days. This legislation was to clean up the “free college” legislation passed at the end of the 2019 legislative session. This new law taxes an estimated 4,000 new businesses (14,000 total now, that employ 886,000 people) to bring in additional tax collections, since the bill they passed last year doesn't bring in enough to cover everyone that applied. Professions that would be impacted include health care providers, construction, and other industries that will just pass along the cost to consumers.
Penalties reduced for intentionally infecting others with HIV
House Democrats passed House Bill 1551 this session that would reduce the punishment for those who intentionally infect another with the HIV virus. It would reduce the crime of intentional transmission of HIV from the felony crime of assault in the first degree down to a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. This very concerning. If someone intends to cause bodily harm with a disease like HIV, they should be punished accordingly, not get by with a slap on the wrist.
I am also concerned with the parental rights aspect of this legislation. The bill would allow a minor as young as 14 years of age to receive treatment to avoid HIV infection without a parent or guardian's consent. Parents should be involved in a minor's health care decisions, especially something like HIV.
Stay in touch
While the legislative session is over, please remember I am your state representative year-round. I am available to answer your questions, listen to your ideas and help you navigate problems with state government. My district office phone number is 509-664-1274.
It is an honor to serve the 12th District in the state House of Representatives.