Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Since May, legislators have been under election-year restrictions, limiting how we can communicate with our constituency. However, with the certification of the election the restrictions have been lifted and our lines of communication are now open.
The 2021 legislative session is fast approaching. It will be different in this era of COVID as our legislative session will be virtual. House facilities will remain closed to the public, floor sessions and committee meetings will be held remotely, and staff must telework. Click here for the full plan.
While it will be a “virtual” legislative session, please do not hesitate to contact me any time with ideas or questions you have about legislation or the session. Your input is important and I want to know how our state government is impacting you as I am fulfilling my legislative duties.
The fight against the COVID-19 virus continues across the country, in Washington state, and in our communities. There are no easy answers in dealing with this pandemic. We need to be cautious, diligent and find compassion for those who have lost loved ones or contracted the disease.
At the same time, we cannot forgot those who have lost their jobs, businesses or their livelihoods. I am very concerned about the latest restrictions on our small businesses. There must be a balance. I believe we can be safe and smart, while working to maintain a sense of normalcy in our communities.
Businesses across the state are working diligently to stay open. I have been engaged in numerous discussions and written, as well as signed onto many letters to the governor since the pandemic began and he started closing our economy.
I spear-headed an effort by House Republicans requesting that the governor allow local, private and non-profit gyms and fitness facilities in our region and across the state to remain open. According to data and studies, the gyms have not been a source of COVID infections and the facilities have done a good job keeping their facilities and customers safe.
The letter requests the governor reconsider the restrictions on these facilities since they provide a place for folks to stay healthy, improve their physical condition and emotional well-being. To read the letter click here.
Earlier this month, I also signed onto a letter with more than 50 other legislators requesting the governor call an immediate special session.
Republicans asked for a special session as far back as April to make budget decisions that could put the state in a better position financially and more importantly, provide financial relief to businesses and families. This pandemic is not a partisan issue. Legislators from both parties should be included in the decisions being made. The governor should not be trying to manage this pandemic by himself. We as a legislative body have a responsibility and a right to be involved in the decisions that are being made and impacting all of our communities and citizens.
In a special session we could consider more funding for public health, property tax relief, assistance to our restaurants and small businesses, a break on unemployment taxes, more dollars from grant programs and other ideas.
Media outlets across the state also believe it is time for legislators to be at the table.
- Editorial: Call special session now to give businesses badly needed financial aid | Yakima Herald
- Editorial: Pandemic legislative session must be model of transparency | The Seattle Times
- Editorial: Inslee should expand his bubble, call special session of Washington Legislature | The News Tribune
- Editorial: If you want the GOP's help slowing COVID, Gov. Inslee, you need to let them in | Tri-City Herald
- Editorial: Governor's new restrictions could have benefited from Republican input | Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
- Column: Gov. Jay Inslee gets an 'A' in health, but so far he's marked absent on the pandemic economy | Danny Westneat, The Seattle Times
Many other states across the country, including our neighbors Idaho and Oregon, have called special sessions so lawmakers could address COVID-related policies and budget issues.
Employment Security Department
At one point in May, more than 800,000 Washingtonians had filed for unemployment insurance after the pandemic hit our state. While the pandemic is unprecedented, the Employment Security Department (ESD) has struggled with getting some folks their unemployment in a time manner.
It is also estimated that ESD lost up to $576 million in unemployment funds to fraud in the spring. The governor needs to take a close look at this state agency and its leadership. In October, the State Auditor's Office was trying to investigate the fraud and other issues within the ESD by conducting a series of audits. Unfortunately, State Auditor Pat McCarthy indicated in an Oct. 20 letter that ESD was being difficult and interfering with the audits.
It is critical the department allow the auditor's office to do their job so a thorough and independent investigation can be done to provide our citizens with some transparency and trust. Now, more than ever, our citizens need the ESD to function efficiently. This is also an issue we could look at during a special session – more caseworkers, additional funding, or other resources that may benefit the department. If you are having any issues with the ESD please do not hesitate to contact my office. For more background on the audit situation see below:
- Washington state auditor warns unemployment agency on 'interference' with audits into massive fraud | Seattle Times
- Editorial: ESD's efforts to hinder audits is shameful | Yakima Herald-Republic)
- Editorial: Time for Employment Security Department to come clean | The Seattle Times
While the 2021 Legislature will be “virtual,” I urge you to stay connected and be in touch. The simplest way to communicate with me is via our email system here. Below are some helpful links to keep you informed about what is happening in Olympia.
- My legislative website: Here you will find my contact information, news releases, email updates, bills, and other information.
- The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process. Check it out!
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online. This will be an important tool with the session being “virtual.”
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about legislative issues before us this year please do not hesitate to contact me. Your feedback is important as we consider the many issues that impact our communities and state.
Finally, if you are able, please support your communities and local businesses. We want them to succeed and make it through this difficult time. We appreciate the commitment and support they have shown for our communities through service clubs, youth sports, parades and festivals and much more.
It is an honor to serve as your 12th District Representative.