Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2022 Legislature adjourned on March 10. The following email update is a little lengthy, but it touches on many issues we have been discussing this session and through the interim. I hope you will take the time to read it and contact me with any questions, comments or concerns.
The legislative session was mostly virtual after last year's completely virtual session. The public was not allowed in the legislative buildings and committee hearings were conducted virtually. A small number of legislators were allowed on the House floor in the second part of the legislative session. Legislators were allowed to be in Olympia and meet in caucus if they desired. While committee work and meeting with constituents was still virtual, I spent most of the session in Olympia. I felt it important to be there and I was able to meet with some of my colleagues, as well as debate and vote on the House floor.
In this email newsletter I will give you an update on the more high profile issues we addressed this session and the three budgets we passed.
First, I want to thank everyone who participated in the Zoom virtual town hall event Rep. Mike Steele and I held last month. I know it was a nice day outside in North Central Washington, so I greatly appreciate you taking an hour of your weekend to talk with us. We had a good turnout from constituents all across the district and folks were very engaged. We touched on a variety of issues. Your questions, input and feedback are very important to us.
I am hopeful we will be able to hold an in-person town hall meeting in the future. It was great to hear from people across the 12th District.
Majority party stops debate on emergency powers reform
One of the biggest disappointments of the legislative session was the House Democrats' inaction on emergency powers reform. Earlier in the year, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins said she was “seeking balance.” In the end, nothing happened and the imbalance in state government remains.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 5909, with most Republicans voting “no” because they felt it was watered-down and did very little to address the imbalance of power we have seen the last two years. House Democrats did bring the bill up for a vote just after 1 a.m. We debated for 20 minutes, and then they stopped debate. We had amendments to improve the bill and were prepared to debate the merits of emergency powers reform, but this apparently was not a priority of the House majority party. Editorials around the state also agree it was time for some reform.
- The Columbian: Strong legislation needed to curb governor power | Feb. 22, 2022
- The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin: Bill on emergency power limits ineffective | Feb. 20, 2022
- Tri-City Herald: Don't be fooled. Bill by Washington Senate Democrats does little to contain Inslee's emergency powers | Feb. 18, 2022
Washington has been under a “state of emergency” for more than two years now. Our state government was not intended to operate this way under a Republican or Democrat governor. It is extremely disappointing the majority party did not want to address this issue. Check out this web page that highlights our efforts on this issue over the last two years.
Police reform legislation
One of the priority issues this session was to fix the flawed, partisan police reforms passed last year. This year, in a bipartisan manner, we were able to pass legislation addressing some of the changes that needed to be made.
The governor has already signed two bills. House Bill 1735, addresses the use of force which makes clear that the Legislature never intended to stop police from using force in situations such as transporting a person for treatment or providing mental health assistance; taking a minor into protective custody; and executing or enforcing an order directing an officer to take someone into custody. House Bill 1719 fixes an oversight that seemed to inadvertently prohibit police departments from possessing certain less-lethal weapons.
There is also House Bill 2037, which awaits the governor's signature, that would provide a more clear definition for our law enforcement officers on the physical use of force.
The biggest disappointment of the police reform legislation is not passing Senate Bill 5919. While it passed both the House and Senate in various forms, the two chambers could not reach agreement. The bill would provide more precise definitions of the use of force standards, but would incorporate reasonable suspicion back into law enforcement officers' abilities to perform vehicular pursuits as well. Vehicular pursuit remains an important component of correcting the flaws passed by the majority party in 2021 that still needs to be addressed.
Move Ahead Washington plan
The Move Ahead Washington transportation package introduced by the majority party is a good news-bad news piece of legislation. It is a 16-year package with anticipated revenues of $17 billion.
First, the good news. There is potentially $85 million in state grant money for the Confluence Parkway project, including a new bridge over the Wenatchee River. However, it is important to clarify the language in the transportation package does not specifically designate the money to the parkway project. With the restrictions on what would qualify for the loan, it appears the Confluence project may be the only project that would qualify. I would add, there is not funding this biennium or the next.
Our next efforts are to solidify the funding for the future. I can assure you this is a priority of your 12th District legislative delegation and the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council.
Overall, I do have concerns with the plan. It was developed without any Republican input. A more bipartisan approach could have provided more balance and support for a transportation package. Media outlets have called out the majority party for their lack of bipartisanship:
- Build state's transportation plans on a bipartisan foundation | The Seattle Times
- Washington Democrats are blowing it. Export fuel tax plan is horrible, and so is raiding public works | Tri-City Herald
Initially, the plan made headlines for the export tax on fuel supplied to our neighboring states. As you can see by the headlines below, the governors of Alaska, Oregon and Idaho were prepared to take action if it passed.
- Washington's proposed export tax is 'unacceptable' says Oregon governor | MyNorthwest
- Idaho governor, AG request stop in Washington's fuel tax | KHQ TV
- Alaska, Oregon officials speak out against Washington fuel export tax | The Center Square
The majority party removed that piece of their plan, but what they replaced it with was worse. They decided to transfer money out of the Public Works Trust Fund. Speaking from my experience in local government, this is devastating. The local governments around Washington state rely on this fund for public health needs, such as critical water and sewer infrastructure.
The transfer of the public works dollars is not the only reason I could not support this plan. Other concerns include:
- It would increase fees by as much as $2.3 billion on things such as car/motorcycle license plates and driver's licenses.
- It would only allocate $3 billion for maintenance and preservation. The Washington State Department of Transportation shared with the House Transportation Committee that $10 billion over 10 years is needed.
- It is heavy on transit as vehicle owners and drivers would pay more for non-driver related modes of transportation.
- Under this proposal, only electric vehicles may be purchased, sold, or registered in Washington state after vehicle model year 2030.
It is important to point out Republicans introduced a plan before session. To review it, click here. The majority was aware of our plan and could have worked with us on a bipartisan proposal.
While I was hopeful Republicans would have had more input, I did vote in favor of the supplemental transportation budget. The budget does provide funding to keep our transportation system functioning, keeps the completion of some mega projects on track and addresses staffing issues within the state ferry system and the Department of Transportation.
I am concerned elements of the Democrats' Move Ahead Washington tax and spend plan are incorporated into the budget. Our priorities are different than what this budget reflects, such as maintenance and preservation, emphasis on local projects and completing Connecting Washington projects.
Majority party's operating budget
I voted against the supplemental operating budget. It would increase spending to about $65 billion in 2021-23, a $6.1 billion increase to current spending levels. State spending is now $12.5 billion or 24% higher than the 2019-21 levels.
Noticeably missing is meaningful tax relief, despite a historic $15 billion budget surplus and inflation running at 7.6%, the highest level in more than 40 years. That equates to costing the average household an extra $250 a month. Combine that with the two years of lockdowns and mandates causing financial stress, we are missing the perfect opportunity to provide tax relief for working families.
To show the state can provide meaningful tax relief for working families while still addressing critical needs, our ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Drew Stokesbary, has put together the “SAFE Washington” budget framework. It would:
- Cut the state sales tax by a full percentage point.
- Deliver billions of dollars in ongoing funding for transportation projects.
- Reduce B&O taxes on the sectors seeing the highest inflation, including manufacturing, timber, and food processors.
- Repeal the mandatory long-term care tax and replace it with an optional program.
- Rescue the beleaguered Paid Family and Medical Program to avoid another payroll tax increase on employees next year.
- Offer one-time grants to businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, including hotels and restaurants.
- Provide police departments with funding for officer retention and recruitment bonuses.
His framework would also leave a four-year surplus of $2.1 billion while the Democrat plan would only leave a small, four-year ending fund balance of $348 million. This is about 1% of state budget. Local governments are expected to have about 10% in reserve. The state should be held to the same standard.
The supplemental capital budget continued our historic investments in the 12th District and across Washington state from last year's record-breaking capital budget. Due in part to the influence of my seatmate, Rep. Mike Steele, the ranking Republican and our lead negotiator of the House Capital Budget Committee, it passed with unanimous support out of both chambers.
The 2022-23 supplemental capital budget spends $1.5 billion, with more than $10.5 million going toward 12th District projects, including:
- Chelan-Douglas Port Authority Trades District project: $3 million;
- City of Brewster Sewer upgrade: $2.8 million;
- Chelan-Douglas Food Distribution Center (Malaga): $1 million;
- Brewster School District: $933,000;
- Elmer City Fire Station improvements: $772,000;
- Wenatchee city pool repairs: $550,000;
- Wenatchee Valley YMCA: $515,000;
- City of Brewster Canyon Well House: $480,000
- Peshastin cross over siphon pipe: $309,000; and
- Lake Chelan EMS design: $191,000.
The projects are on top of the $45 million in funding for the 12th District we were able to secure last year. These are taxpayer dollars coming back to our district.
While the capital spending plan makes significant investments in K-12 school construction, broadband, school seismic safety, public works, and housing, it also continues our support for mental health. See graph below.
The pandemic shutdowns have exacerbated mental health issues and we are seeing it impact all corners of our state. As you can see by the chart above, our capital budget continues strong investments in our mental health care.
Keep 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.
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.
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session and every month during the interim.
It is an honor to serve the 12th District in the state House of Representatives.