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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Washington state received good news this week. The revenue forecast says we've got more than enough to fund critical government services and policy objectives, including money for pandemic recovery.
Tax collections continue to climb. This is due partly to federal government stimulus money and higher than expected sales tax revenue. As you can see from the chart blow, compared to the November revenue forecast, state collections are up about $1.34 billion for the rest of the 2019-21 biennium and up another $1.95 billion for the 2021-23 biennium (about $3.29 billion over the four-year outlook).
Tax increases are unnecessary
With the additional benefit of billions more in federal stimulus money from the American Rescue Plan coming to the state, why are some legislators asking for more in taxes? The majority party continues to push the unnecessary, unconstitutional capital gains income tax, Senate Bill 5096.
Individuals, families, and struggling businesses need a break from the financial hardships caused by the pandemic. As we continue to recover economically, legislators should be focusing less on emptying pockets, and more on providing relief.
We've reached another milestone
The past couple of weeks have included long days and late evenings debating and voting on bills on the House floor. That's because we recently passed another deadline in the 2021 legislative session. Tuesday, March 9, was the cutoff for bills to be passed out of the chamber in which they were introduced. Although no bill is really “dead” until the final gavel on April 25, measures that did not make it through will probably not see further action this session.
Now that we are past “house of origin” cutoff, lawmakers are back in their respective committees reviewing and vetting bills approved in the opposing chamber. In total, the House has approved 216 bills. To see a complete list of bills that passed the Senate or House click here.
Bad bills that passed House
With so many bills being decided in the past couple of weeks, it's difficult to narrow it down to a few good and bad. I'll start with the bad bills.
One of the most disappointing measures that passed out the House chamber was the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS). This regressive policy will raise gas and home heating costs, hurting low-income individuals and families the hardest, without any measurable effect on the environment. Despite bipartisan opposition, House Bill 1091 was approved 52 to 46, with all 41 House Republicans voting “no.”
House Bill 1236, though well intentioned, is another terrible bill. The measure essentially takes away any rights landlords have to evict tenants, including those engaging in harassment or illegal activities. This change will force many rental housing providers to sell—many of whom depend on that revenue as retirement or supplemental income—further depleting the supply of rental properties in our state. During floor debate, numerous good amendments were offered that could have made it better, but they were all rejected by the majority party.
And finally, despite bipartisan opposition, House Bills 1310, 1054, and 1267 were all approved. These measures will make it even more difficult for law enforcement officers to do their jobs, decreasing public safety in our communities and across the state.
Good bills that passed the House
Along with the bad, there also some good bills approved by the House. One of the best is a measure that offers some foreclosure protection to struggling property owners in co-ops, homeowners associations (HOAs), condominium buildings, and other common interest communities, while also creating a way to catch up on any past due amounts. House Bill 1482 will help individuals and families who may have otherwise lost their condo or home in an HOA over trivial amounts of money.
House Bill 1410 is another good bill. The measure will protect taxpayers from home foreclosures by reining in onerous interest rates and penalties. And House Bill 1438 will provide property tax relief to seniors with high medical expenses and disabled veterans.
13th District Virtual Town Hall Meeting
Along with my seatmates, Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, and Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, we'll be hosting a virtual town hall meeting on Wednesday, March 24 at 7 p.m. We'll share an update on bills approved or defeated in the House or Senate and other information on the 105-day session. Click here to register.
Phase 3 | Reopening Washington
After more than two months of Republican legislators pushing hard for the governor to ease his coronavirus restrictions and start the next phase of re-opening the state, he finally relented. The governor recently announced all counties in Washington will move to Phase 3 of his “Healthy Washington” reopening plan.
Click below to watch my recent legislative update video, which includes my comments on the governor's announcement.
Under Phase 3, indoor spaces, like restaurants and movie theaters, can have 50% occupancy with up to 400 people for indoor and outdoor activities, such as concerts and high school graduations, as long as physical distancing and masking are enforced. Outdoor events with permanent facilities can have 25% occupancy for spectators.
Governor's emergency declaration for K-12
Along with the move to Phase 3, the governor finally recognized the mental health ramifications of the pandemic on youth with an emergency proclamation requiring all K-12 schools to provide in-person instruction by April 19.
Although this is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done. According to the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, higher rates of suicide-related behaviors in children appear to have corresponded with stay-at-home orders and school closures. The disruption of routines, reduced contact with friends, concern over getting ill, and financial turmoil suffered by many families have exacted a toll. This should be addressed sooner, rather than later—starting with getting students back in school.
Please stay in touch!
Feel free to call, write or email my office with your comments, concerns or ideas about legislation and state government. My contact information is listed below.
470 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7808 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000