Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The last couple of weeks we have spent long days debating and voting on bills on the “virtual” House floor. While most bills pass with strong, bipartisan support and little controversy, there were some very contentious bills that involved hours of debate. I will share some of the more high-profile bills later in the this email update. I will also provide an overview of governor's latest Phase 3 announcement. First, I want to share the details of an upcoming event.
Virtual town hall meeting
On Tuesday, March 23, at 6 p.m., Rep. Mike Steele and I are having a virtual town hall meeting to discuss the 2021 legislative session.
This is a great way to let your voice be heard from the comfort of your own home. The remote town hall event will be conducted using the Zoom platform. If you would like to participate, you must pre-register. Click here to do so. You can also go to to representativekeithgoehner.com or representativemikesteele.com. Both websites have a drop-down at the top of the page that will allow you to register. The conference can only accommodate the first 500 attendees, so register early. You can also submit a question in advance. I look forward to your questions, concerns and input.
Washington state to move to Phase 3
On Thursday, we received some good news, as the governor announced all of Washington state will be moving to Phase 3 – effective March 22.
His “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” plan will be transitioning to a county-by-county approach rather than the previous regional plan. All counties have been in Phase 2 since Feb. 14, and businesses, schools and communities have anxiously been awaiting what is next.
I appreciate all the emails, phone calls and communication from you. It has helped us be proactive and effective in getting us to Phase 3. Because we have heard from so many, Republicans in the Legislature introduced a plan last week “Open Safe, Open Now” or House Bill 1553. Republican leaders Sen. John Braun and Rep. J.T. Wilcox also sent a letter to the governor last week outlining our plan for Phase 3. It appears the governor has used some of our ideas. We are grateful he has integrated them into his plan.
Phase 3 plan
Here are some details from the governor's plan and metric chart:
- Counties will be individually evaluated every three weeks. The evaluations will occur on Mondays with any changes taking effect Friday. The first evaluation is April 12.
- Large and small counties will have different sets of criteria. If any county fails one or more of the metrics, that county will move down a phase.
- If at any point the statewide ICU capacity reaches greater than 90%, all counties will move down a phase. The Department of Health has the ability to move a county forward or backward at their discretion.
- In-person spectators will be allowed at sporting events at outdoor venues with permanent seating – capacity capped at 25%. The change effects professional and high school sports, motorsports, rodeos, and other outdoor events. Social distancing and facial covering are still required.
- The new phase also allows for up to 400 people maximum to attend outdoor activities, as well as events in indoor facilities — the 400 people cannot exceed 50% capacity for the location. Larger venue events are capped at 25% occupancy, or up to 9,000 people, whichever is less. Social distancing and facial covering are still required.
- Phase 3 will also allow up to 50% occupancy or 400 people maximum, whichever is lower, for all indoor spaces. This applies to all industries and indoor activities currently allowed; restaurants, gyms and fitness centers and movie theaters, among others. A full list of industry-level changes for the new phase will be released next week.
Republicans will continue to be proactive and solution-oriented, just as we have been with our operating budget proposal and COVID-19 relief package introduced earlier this session. We look forward to working toward Phase 4 and fully reopening our economy, schools and communities. As our COVID numbers continue to improve and hospitalizations decline, it is time to trust the citizens of Washington and get students back in school, people back to work and the businesses in our communities open.
Contentious bills that passed the House
- House Bill 1091 | Low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) mandate | This debate lasted more than five hours as Republicans tried to make this bad bill better. The LCFS could drive the price of gas up by as much as 57 cents a gallon, and diesel as high as 63 cents a gallon, without generating any new revenue for transportation projects. It would hurt our economy and do little to improve air quality. It passed the House 52-46.
- House Bill 1054 | Police tactics and equipment | This would take away tools our law enforcement officers rely on to de-escalate situations and avoid the need to use deadly force. This could make their job even more dangerous. It passed 54-43.
- House Bill 1310 | Use of force by officers | There are concerns the bill fails to recognize a number of circumstances where force may be required to ensure public safety. Officers should be held to a professional standard (i.e., the “reasonable officer standard”). This bill undercuts the reasonable officer standard established in I-940. Passed the House 55-42.
- House Bill 1078 | Felon voting rights | Would automatically restore felon voting rights before completed sentences, including for those who committed heinous, violent and sexual offenses. Passed the House 57-41.
- House Bill 1097 | Worker protections | This legislation shifts costs to employers. It contains vague standards and would create uncertainty for businesses in a time when they are already struggling and stressed in this difficult economic time. Passed the House 53-44.
- House Bill 1236 | Rental property rights | This legislation would take away the rights of property owners to determine who they can rent to or when and why they can evict a tenant. Government would be able to dictate what property owners can and cannot do with their property under this legislation. Passed the House 54-44.
Good bills that passed the House
- House Bill 1168 would help prevent and fight devastating wildfires by focusing on long-term forest health.
- House Bill 1137 would elevate road maintenance and preservation in transportation planning.
- House Bill 1170 would strengthen and build our economy by establishing a goal to double manufacturing jobs and firms over the next 10 years.
- House Bill 1410 would repeal heavy penalties on delinquent property tax payments. This should help those who are struggling to pay their property taxes, especially during these difficult economic times.
- House Bill 1438 would expand eligibility for the senior and disabled veteran property tax relief program by excluding common medical expenses from calculation of income for purposes of eligibility.
We were also able to stop House Bill 1084, which would have restricted energy choice and increased energy costs by restricting natural gas use in homes and commercial buildings. It also would have negatively affected the energy reliability in our region and the diversity of Washington's energy portfolio.
Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or comments regarding the issues in this update or other state government issues. I look forward to visiting with you on March 23.