Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are entering the second month of the 2021 session. This week we passed an important milestone on the legislative calendar: policy cutoff. Any policy bills not approved and passed out from their respective committees, in the chamber in which they were introduced, may be “dead” for the year. Legislation with fiscal impacts are the only exception to this rule.
All committee-approved bills now go forward to the Rules Committee, where they await consideration on the House or Senate floor. Once scheduled for debate, lawmakers will say “yay” or “nay” and send any approved bills to the opposite chamber.
COVID-19 restrictions | Phase 2 and 3
When the governor recently announced all Washington counties were now in Phase 2, except for Kittitas County—my 13th District seatmates, Sen. Judy Warnick and Rep. Tom Dent, and I were livid. We quickly wrote a letter to the governor with our strong objections to his decision.
Later it was discovered that a data error caused the South Central health region to be left behind. Providence St. Mary Medical Center explained they had mistakenly reported the total number of COVID-19 positive patients hospitalized each day—instead of only the number of new case admissions. With that correction, the South Central health region—including Kittitas County—moved from Phase 1 to the less-restrictive Phase 2.
In Phase 2, establishments that only serve alcohol, but no food, are to remain closed. But restaurants, indoor fitness centers, and live entertainment venues, such as museums, concert halls, and bowling alleys, can open up at 25% capacity.
Although this is a step in the right direction, the question of what Phase 3 might look like remains unanswered. Last week, Senate and House Republican leaders asked the governor in a letter to “clearly define Phase 3 in his “Healthy Washington—Roadmap to Recovery” plan. They also requested that the fences around the Legislative Building be removed so that people can once again peacefully assemble on the Capitol steps. It's time for the barriers to come down and for individuals, families across Washington to get back to a more normal life.
REAL Recovery for Washington Act
The socio-economic devastation wrought by the pandemic-induced restrictions has been painful. Since session began, my legislative priorities have been on getting Washingtonians back to work, kids back in school, and businesses back on their feet.
That's why, frankly, I'm shocked Democrats in both the House and Senate have introduced several bills that would not only increase taxes but the cost of home-heating bills and gasoline. Why? Increased taxes will only hurt those struggling financially because of the pandemic.
Although countless individuals and families have been experiencing a financial crisis over the past several months, state government has not. In fact, tax revenue has remained remarkably resilient. There is no reason to raise taxes on hardworking individuals and families.
That's why I supported a COVID-relief package that, unfortunately, did not come up for a vote: The REAL Recovery for Washington Act. This comprehensive approach seeks to utilize the state's rainy-day fund and does far more than the bill the Democrats ended up supporting: House Bill 1368.
Similar to the unemployment insurance bill passed earlier this session, and the governor signed into law last week, the COVID-relief legislation would do some positive things. But unfortunately, it does not go far enough to help families, employees, and businesses.
Take a look at the side-by-side comparison of the two proposals below:
During floor debate on House Bill 1368, my Republican colleagues and I offered six amendments that focused on:
- Safely reopening schools;
- Assisting students who have fallen behind;
- Providing rental and utility assistance;
- Easing financial burdens on working families;
- Helping child care providers; and
- Supporting small businesses.
Unfortunately, all but one amendment was rejected by the majority party.
Real Opportunities for all Washingtonians | 2021-23 operating budget framework
This week House Republicans introduced the framework for the 2021-23 operating budget that would fund all the priorities and critical services needed for our state—including help for vulnerable populations and small businesses—with no cuts and no new taxes.
This plan provides real solutions based on the values of fiscal responsibility and limited government. Take a look at some proposal highlights below:
Session priorities | My bills
This session I've co-sponsored several bills on behalf of our region. They include:
House Bill 1079 — Concerning the timeframe for establishing charter schools.
House Bill 1121 — Modifying graduation requirements during a state emergency.
House Bill 1158 — Setting some limits on the governor's authority during a state of emergency.
House Bill 1228 — Addressing landlord-tenant rights in response to COVID-19.
House Bill 1244 — Prohibiting civil penalties on first-time violations for businesses during emergency proclamations.
House Bill 1263 — Rural infrastructure grant program improvements.
House Bill 1302 — College in high school programs.
House Bill 1343 — Providing employer relief for unemployment insurance.
House Bill 1410 — Protecting taxpayers from home foreclosure.
House Bill 1452 — Promoting alternative methods for earning physical education credit.
Staying involved during the virtual session
As a reminder, you can listen to my weekly podcast “Capitol Report” here. You can visit my website here. You can watch all committee and floor action on TVW here. And you can learn more about how you can stay involved in this remote legislative session here.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the state House of Representatives. My office is here to help.