Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you all had a safe and happy 4th of July and are staying cool this summer. While we are not in session, I wanted to update you on a number of issues.
Every 10 years after the federal government has compiled their census information, Washington state redraws the boundaries of our legislative and congressional districts to reflect our state's changing populations to ensure each district represents an equal number of residents.
The Washington State Redistricting Commission consists of four voting members — two Democrats and two Republicans — picked by the leaders of the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the state House and Senate. A fifth, nonvoting chairperson is then picked by the voting members.
The public can participate in the process. The commission is currently working on drawing the lines of the 10 congressional districts. Our region is currently split among the 4th and 8th Congressional Districts. Meetings for these districts are coming up.
Congressional Districts 4 and 5 (Round 2)
July 24, 2021
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Congressional Districts 8 and 10 (Round 2)
July 31, 2021
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
For a list of the commission meetings click here. You will find the option to register for public comment in the details of each meeting.
New payroll tax
I have heard from some of you about the new payroll tax related to the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Program. While the tax will be new, starting on Jan. 1, 2022, it actually comes from legislation passed by the majority party in the 2019 legislative session.
When the tax kicks in, employees in Washington state will pay 0.58 percent per $100 of their earnings to fund the Long-Term Care Trust Act. Those who pay into the Trust Program are eligible for a lifetime maximum benefit of $36,500 (adjusted annually by no more than the Consumer Price Index once they vest).
This benefit is available for Washington residents only and for care provided in the state of Washington. It is not transferable, so if you plan to retire to another state, you lose your entire contribution into the system. To utilize the benefits you must also need assistance with at least three of 10 Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): medication management, personal hygiene, eating, toileting, transferring, body care, bathing, ambulation/mobility, dressing and cognitive impairment. Individuals who meet these requirements may begin applying for benefits in January 2025.
Also, if you plan to retire within the next 10 years, you will not receive a benefit for your contribution because you must work 500 hours per year for 10 years to be vested. Even if you work the next nine-and-a-half years, then decide to retire, you will lose your entire contribution into the system.
The funds can only be utilized with providers who are on a Department of Social and Health Services approved list for services. Funds can be spent on nursing facilities, residential settings like assisted living and adult family homes, professional caregiving like home health care, wheelchair ramps, emergency alert devices, medication reminders, Meals on Wheels, rides to doctor appointments, dementia education, caregiver support, and care coordination.
Do we need to do a better job at long-term care planning? Sure. Unfortunately, this program is riddled with flaws. It penalizes those who retire out of state and employees who are within 10 years of retirement, has a limited maximum benefit and is poor policy.
You can find more on this issue here.
Washington is open! Or is it?
On June 30, the governor lifted the pandemic restrictions and reopened Washington. Restrictions have been lifted on restaurants, bars, churches, concert halls, movie theaters and more. However, businesses are still allowed to set their own standards, if they so choose.
The governor announced a while ago people who have been fully vaccinated can stop wearing masks and social distancing both indoors and outside. This aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated guidelines which states people who have been fully vaccinated can safely stop wearing masks. There are exceptions and businesses can still require their customers to wear masks, and they may ask for proof of vaccination.
However, the biggest question that still remains is, when is our emergency over? Inslee recently announced a new emergency order related to evictions and rental assistance, but he didn't mention that order also extends the emergency declaration through Sept. 30.
Washington state's “emergency” is approaching 500 days, and is the longest running in the nation. COVID-19 is not over, but as I, and many other elected officials and citizens have said, we should not be under one person control, especially for 16 months. There is simply no reason to be operating under this emergency order any longer.
For more on this issue read “Inslee loudly, proudly reopened Washington. Why is he quietly extending emergency order?” in The News Tribune from Republican leaders Sen. John Braun and Rep. J.T. Wilcox.
Overall crime up in 2020
Recent figures released from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs show that crime increased overall in 2020. The report shows that in 2020, murders were up almost 47% and have increased overall 67% since 2016. A couple other glaring statistics include:
- Washington is ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand people.
- Reported cases of officers assaulted was up 6% in 2020 and has increased 67% since 2016.
This comes on the heels of the majority party passing legislation many believe will make the job of law enforcement officers more difficult, drive officers out of this profession and make our communities less safe. The Columbia Basin Herald recently ran an article, “Who can respond? New use-of-force law changes police work in Moses Lake; police chief warns of limitations,” that discusses the challenges law enforcement in our region face with the new legislation.
For more information on the legislation passed this session click here.
Transportation revenues increase
On June 23, the Transportation Revenue Forecast Council unveiled the most recent transportation revenue forecast. Highlights include:
- The June 2021 baseline transportation forecast of revenues total $6.1 billion for the current biennium, which is up from the March 2021 baseline forecast by $52.2 million or 0.9%. Most of the increase in revenue is due to fuel taxes and toll revenues.
- Over the next 10 years, the baseline transportation revenues are projected to be $34.46 billion, which is up from the last forecast by $396 million or (1.2%) from March. The largest upward adjustments have been fuel tax collection, driver-related and business-related revenues.
Kreidler bans credit scores for use in setting insurance rates
On June 20, Office of the Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's emergency rule banning credit scoring kicked in. For three years, until after the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over, the insurance companies can no longer use credit scores to determine premiums for home, auto and renter's insurance policies.
I have heard from some of you on this issue. I am very concerned that government is once again telling businesses how to function. This will likely penalize many people. According to Kreidler's office, approximately 1.3 million policyholders could see rate changes, but how many will be paying more versus those who will pay less is not known. The credit score is a very accurate tool to use for the rating process, but under this new rule the insurance industry expects to see rate increases of up to 5 – 10%. According to AAA, Washington senior citizens could pay 20% more.
For more on this issue check out the following stories:
I continue to work on a number of issues this interim. Water in our region continues to be one of my priorities. We did get $2 million in the capital budget for water banking in the Methow region. However, that is only one piece of the many different issues related to water. I continue to work on fine tuning my water rights transfer legislation this interim and hope to gain more traction in the upcoming session. I recently did a podcast with T.J. Martinell of Lens entitled “How water rights make or break local economies.” Click here to listen.
Stay in touch
While the legislative session is over, I am available to meet with you, listen to your ideas, answer questions and help you navigate problems with state government. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
You can follow state government news throughout the interim with the following websites/news services.
- 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. It is updated frequently.
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
It is an honor to serve the 12th District in the state House of Representatives.