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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Legislature adjourned on March 7. This email update has an overview of the initiatives, the budgets, and some of the good and bad of the legislative session. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Three initiatives passed

As I mentioned in my previous email update, three of the six citizen initiatives to the Legislature were successfully passed. This is good news for the citizens of Washington. The initiatives are a reaction to legislation in the last few years that are a concern to many Washingtonians.  The three that passed with strong, bipartisan support are:

The three initiatives that did not pass advance to the November ballot. Washington voters will decide if they pass or not. The three on the ballot will be:

  • I-2117: Repealing the Climate Commitment Act, or carbon tax.
  • I-2124: Opting out of the state long-term care insurance program/payroll tax. 
  • I-2109: Repealing the capital gains tax.

Operating budget

The operating budget passed on party lines in the House. The supplemental spending plan has some good things, such as increased spending for special education, child care, and behavioral health statewide. And it does not increase taxes. However, House Republicans voted “no” for several reasons:

  • The budget has more than doubled over the last 10 years.
  • It increased spending by about $2 billion in a “supplemental” budget year. The 2014 supplemental budget increased spending by $200 million.
  • It provides no tax relief for middle-class families despite being one of the least affordable states in the country. (#3 for gas prices, #4 for grocery prices, #4 for housing crisis.)
  • It spreads spending over 1,000 separate line items instead of focusing on key priorities.
  • It does not provide full reimbursement to agricultural interests who were promised to not be impacted by the Climate Commitment Act.
  • It still does not address adequate Medicaid reimbursement rates to ensure state subsidized health programs, particularly critical for rural facilities.

Capital budget

The 2024 supplemental capital budget included more than $26 million in district-funded projects. My seatmate, Rep. Mike Steele, is among the lead negotiators on the capital budget. He does a great job of balancing projects across the state and the 12th District. I listed the projects in my last email update. You can also review them in the news release we sent out at the end of session:

Transportation budget

As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I supported the bipartisan 2024 supplemental transportation budget. It increases spending by an additional $1.1 billion for a total of $14.6 billion. It also increases funding for the Washington State Patrol, including longevity bonuses for troopers who have worked for 26 years or more. This should have a positive impact on our law enforcement shortage. We continue to have challenges in maintaining and preserving our roads, bridges and ferries.

Governor signs ADU bill into law

The governor recently signed my House Bill 2375 into law. It adds ‘detached’ accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to property that qualifies for the senior citizen and disabled persons property tax exemption.

Many are struggling to find affordable housing. Allowing more ADUs would increase housing options, and it would not impact property taxes.

Successes

Like any legislative session, there are some successes and disappointments. Some of the positive legislation that passed includes:

  • House Bill 1899 helps qualifying property owners and local governments rebuild buildings damaged or destroyed by wildfires.
  • House Bill 2153 establishes new felony and gross misdemeanor crimes for trafficking in, possessing, selling, or offering to sell catalytic converters.
  • House Bill 1987 allows rural public facilities sales and use tax to be used for affordable workforce housing.
  • House Bill 1982 – Makes the Community Economic Revitalization Board’s (CERB) Rural Broadband Program permanent.
  • House Bill 2003 – Creates a leasehold excise tax exemption when public lands are used for affordable housing.

In the Legislature, playing defense is just as important as getting a bill passed. One of the bills we stopped this session was Senate Bill 5241. This bill would have imposed strict rules on hospitals, clinics, and healthcare systems regarding mergers or purchases. It threatened competition and consumer choice, especially in rural areas. It would have restricted access to vital healthcare.

Disappointments

Some bills that made it through the legislative process are concerning. Below is a brief list of some of those bills.

  • House Bill 1589 allows Puget Sound Energy to blend the gas and electric line of business into one rate base. This will drive up energy costs for many people and is seen as a move toward a ban on natural gas as an energy source and increase costs for ratepayers. It will have a ripple effect across the state and will make our state’s affordability crisis worse.
  • Senate Bill 6058 amends the Climate Commitment Act to facilitate a linkage of carbon markets with California and Quebec. 
  • House Bill 2331 restricts local control of school board authority regarding instructional materials and school library materials.
  • Senate Bill 5462 requires the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into all new or revised state learning standards in every subject for every grade level.
  • House Bill 1282 requires contractors on covered projects to provide certain environmental, health, labor, and human resource data about construction materials used. 
  • House Bill 1903 requires a person who suffers a loss or theft of a firearm to report the loss or theft to local law enforcement within 24 hours.

New boundaries would displace lawmakers from current districts

On March 15, a decision was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Laznik that would make major changes to our legislative district boundaries, especially in Central Washington.

Background: The Washington State Redistricting Commission drew up new legislative district boundaries in November 2021, which the commission does every ten years. However, a lawsuit was filed contending the final map violated the federal Voting Rights Act. It was targeting the 15th Legislative District in the Yakima Valley, but the court decision and new map propose significant changes.

The 12th District is altered splitting East Wenatchee out of the 12th District and into the 7th District, but a large part of the city of Wenatchee as well.

According to one column, the new map moves more than 500,000 people in 13 districts. It should be pointed out, the intervenors of the case offered a map with around 80,000 people moved in only three districts. Read more:

The legal fight over the district maps is not finished yet. The intervenors plan on filing pleadings asking for an emergency stay from the United States Supreme Court. In other words – they will ask the United States Supreme Court to stay (block) the new maps imposed by Judge Lasnik while an appeal is pending.

Stay in touch

While the Legislature has adjourned, please keep in mind I am your state representative year-round. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need assistance with a state government issue. I look forward to seeing you around the 12th District.

Sincerely,


Keith Goehner

State Representative Keith Goehner, 12th Legislative District
RepresentativeKeithGoehner.com
122B Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
keith.goehner@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7954 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000