Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this email update finds you well and safe. This remains a difficult time for many, as businesses, schools, colleges and churches remain closed.
As the governor's “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order continues to be in effect, I have heard from many who are concerned about their livelihoods. We have seen mounting pressure to reopen segments of our economy and communities across the state.
While it is critical we maintain safety precautions to continue to flatten the COVID-19 curve, it is also important we move forward with a plan.
On Friday, the governor announced he is extending the stay-at-home order through May 31. He also laid out a four-phase plan in order for Washington state to reopen safely. His plan includes an opportunity for 10 counties that have not been hit as hard by COVID-19, to possibly open sooner. These counties can apply to the Department of Health for a variance from the governor's order, allowing them to move through the phases more quickly. I would note that we have 17 counties that have not reported a death from COVID-19.
Legislative restart plan
On March 25, more than 230,000 businesses in the state of Washington were shut down by the governor.
While the governor outlined his four-phase plan on May 1, Republicans in the Legislature unveiled a plan more than two weeks ago. On April 17 we introduced the Safe Economic Restart Plan. It is a plan that respects the safety of our most vulnerable and at-risk population, while recognizing the impact of restarting the economy for our communities and state.
It offers various strategies and ideas for reopening our economy in a safe, smart and regional manner. Media coverage of our plan included:
- Republican lawmakers release plan to reopen Washington's economy amid coronavirus (The Seattle Times)
- Challenging Inslee, GOP lawmakers release plan to restart the economy (The News Tribune)
- Legislative Republicans unveil “safe economic restart plan” (The Daily World)
We felt it necessary to start working on a plan weeks ago after hearing the concerns from many business owners and employees who want to get back to work. Missing one paycheck is a big deal for most people, but when you start missing multiple paychecks or your business is closed for more than a month, it becomes a very dire situation.
If businesses are not operating and taxpayers are not working, that impacts the ability of our government to provide needed services and resources. Our government can only do what they are empowered to by the tax revenue collected from the taxpayers. The sooner we can get our local economies opened up, the better off we will be. Business owners want to be open for business. They want to be viewed as responsible and credible, while taking the necessary steps to keep folks safe.
We must trust they will do this in a safe and credible manner. Business owners and employees want to work, and for that to happen we must trust they will find safe ways to restart the economy in a common sense manner.
The pandemic has also shaken our health care system. While we have focused preparing hospitals and health care facilities for the onslaught of COVID-19 patients, so-called “elective” surgeries have been delayed and we have neglected the health of others. Last week, the governor did provide some guidance in clarifying the limits on elective surgeries. You can find more on that here. The governor's proclamation on non-urgent medical procedures is still in effect until May 18, but hospitals and health care facilities are open. They urge people to seek timely medical care for health issues that are not COVID-19 related. Do not endanger yourself by becoming sicker or allowing a condition to worsen.
I would add, our federal government is working on getting additional funding to our rural area hospitals to help them through this pandemic.
Finally, we are hearing talk of a possible income tax to make up for the lost revenue we will experience with most of our economy being shut down. I will oppose any efforts to take more of your hard-earned dollars, especially with businesses and families fighting for their livelihoods during this COVID-19 crisis. I have not supported the almost $10 billion in tax increases passed in the last two years. For a list of the tax increases passed in the last two years, click here.
Additional legislative actions
On April 27, my seatmates and I, along with 13th District legislators, sent a letter to the governor's office, the Department of Health, and the Department of Labor and Industries expressing our concerns over the proposed housing rules under the Emergency Regulations for Agricultural Employers, (known as the Bunk Bed Rule). The ag industry is approaching crisis mode in the need for workers and this rule could decimate our tree fruit industries' workforce. You can read that letter here.
I signed onto many other letters lawmakers and elected officials have sent the governor in recent weeks. These include:
- A letter on March 27 requesting the governor lift the ban on recreational fishing.
- A letter on April 20 asking the governor to start reopening the economy in rural Washington.
- A second letter to the governor on the “Bunk Bed Rule” dated April 27.
- A letter on May 1 requesting a decentralization approach to Washington state's recovery form the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.
Releasing inmates wrong approach
The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) is in the process of releasing more than 1,000 inmates from state prisons due to the COVID-19 virus. As of Friday, there were only 18 confirmed cases among the approximately 16,000 offenders in our state prisons.
While the state Supreme Court has said the state needs to take action to protect inmates, they did not issue a directive mandating early release. Other options could have been considered, such as temporary tent structures. State prisons also have the ability to control their surroundings to help limit the spread of the virus. They can limit prison and work release, visitation, social outings and limit them to their cells. Instead, we are releasing them back into society, having committed crimes such as: theft of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance or stolen property, DUI (some offenders with three or more priors within 10 years), manufacturing drugs with intent to deliver, forgery and many other crimes. Keep in mind, some of these may have been plea bargained down from more serious crimes.
Where are these people going to go? This could end up contributing to the homelessness problem. The likelihood of them finding work with so many businesses shutdown is extremely low. They may be more likely to get the virus while out of prison.
The state is still in the process of releasing inmates and it didn't take long for one inmate to get in trouble again: Inmate who scored early COVID-19 release re-arrested after chase, crash.
Other options should have been considered before moving forward with this policy and putting our families and communities in harm's way.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau has extended the deadline to Oct. 31 for people residing in the United States to fill out and submit census forms.
I urge folks in the 12th District to participate in the once-in-a-decade population count. The census count is used by government and private industry for critical resource-allocation decisions. If we have a low or inaccurate count in the 12th District, we could lose access to much-needed resources and services. If you have not participated in the census you can do so at 2020census.gov.
Election-year restrictions go into effect on May 11. I will not be able to send out another email update until early December, after the general election is certified. I can respond to direct questions or inquiries, so I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about legislative or state issues.
In case you missed it, click here for my 2020 Legislative Report.