Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In my end-of-session wrap-up, I shared that interim activities — the meetings and events that happen when lawmakers are not in session — would be my priority for the next few months. That has absolutely been the case. Throughout the summer, I've attended several legislative workgroups and policy meetings, met with constituents, and have begun mapping out proposals for the upcoming 2022 session.
I've also attended several community events. With COVID-19 restrictions easing, many of our region's famous summer rodeos, holidays, and parades are returning. It's been an honor and privilege to take part in events in Cle Elum, Moses Lake, Royal City, and Roslyn. During September, I'll also attend the Ellensburg Rodeo and then, in my hometown of Quincy, the Farmer-Consumer Awareness Day. It's great to see the enthusiasm and positivity at these celebrations — and a growing sense of normalcy.
When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, many Washington state politicians immediately started pushing for more government intervention in our lives. In fact, over the past several months, the governor has imposed several economic and social restrictions — without consulting the Legislature — that would most likely leave the framers of our state government “scratching their heads” in disbelief.
Now we are facing a new government intrusion in our personal, individual health care decisions: mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. Concerned constituents have flooded my office with emails and calls about the governor's recently announced COVID-19 vaccine requirements for state employees. Most state workers in Washington, as well as private health care, K-12, childcare, early learning, and higher education employees are required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination by Oct. 18 — or lose their jobs.
Choice is central to American life. We have powerful protections in both the Washington state and U.S. Constitutions that include our right to make personal, individual health care decisions. Many of the “government knows best” approaches we've seen over the past several months have traded those rights for continually expanding, broad government intervention.
I have received the vaccine. I also believe being vaccinated is a personal health care choice that should be made in consultation with a medical professional, not mandated by the government. That's why I co-authored, along with Sen. Judy Warnick, and my seatmate Rep. Tom Dent, an open letter to the governor and state Superintendent Chris Reykdal sharing our deep concerns with the vaccine mandates. In that letter, we not only discuss the affects on public and private schools — but also on health care workers, first responders, and community volunteers.
I was also recently a guest on KTTH's Jason Rantz's show. During that interview, we discussed why it's wrong for the governor to force teachers to be vaccinated, or be fired. We simply can and should do better. If you would like more information on the Republican response to the vaccine mandates, click here for news and information.
Police reform bills
A group of bills passed during the 2021 session represents one of the most ambitious and dangerous experiments in police reform in the nation. Two in particular, House Bill 1310, regarding the permissible use of force by law enforcement and correctional officers, and House Bill 1054 establishing requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers, are especially problematic.
During the 2021 session, I was a “no” vote on these law enforcement reform measures. Both bills have systemic flaws that create “gray areas” that put the public and first responders in danger. House Bill 1310 can be especially tricky in cases involving drug or mental health crisis issues when individual behavior is often unpredictable, hostile, and sometimes violent. Along with those problems, the rigid limits on the use of military equipment by law enforcement found in House Bill 1054 creates difficulty with less-than-lethal force options, such as bean bag rounds. Under the new law, launchers and other devices may qualify as military equipment and are therefore prohibited.
Merely two months after the governor signed these dangerous policy changes into law, we are witnessing the sad consequences across the state. Take a look:
- What happens when police don't show up to 911 calls (The Olympian)
- Bonney Lake officers say new reform laws kept them from tracking armed suspect (KING TV)
- Man jumps onto cop car, allegedly hits officer who was following police reform rules (KOMO TV)
- They had probable cause after he made threats, but law prevented Bellingham police pursuit (The Bellingham Herald)
- Lower Columbia SWAT team arrests man after three-hour standoff with nonlethal weapons barred by new state law (The Daily News)
- Pierce County deputies call off search for murder suspect, site new reform laws (King 5 News)
- Trying to follow new state laws, WSP shut down I-82 Sunday rather than removed woman from roadway (NCW Life Channel)
- OPINION: Legislative Democrats' attempts at police reform puts communities at risk (The Seattle Times)
Republican leaders have demanded the governor call a special session to fix the problems in these bills. If you agree, contact the governor by clicking here. Let him know these bills need to get fixed — and quickly — for the safety and protection of families, businesses, and communities.
New payroll deduction | The Long-Term Care Act
In 2019, the governor signed House Bill 1087, creating the nation's first public state-operated long-term care insurance program. Starting on Jan. 1, 2022, working Washingtonians will pay 58 cents for every $100 earned to support the Long-Term Services and Supports Trust Program or WA Cares Fund.
House and Senate Republicans, including myself, unanimously opposed this bill for several reasons, including:
- State government should not be in the long-term care insurance business. The costs versus the benefits breakdown for the state-managed plan are abysmal for most working individuals and families;
- Many hard-working Washingtonians simply can't afford to pay more in taxes. Struggling with yet another additional expense, whether it be through the new payroll tax or the cost of private long-term care insurance, will be tough;
- If you move out of Washington state, your benefits are not portable — all contributions will be forfeited to the state; and
- Finally, there is no guarantee the state will not raise this tax rate in the future. In fact, it's extremely likely in years to come very real, large tax increases will be needed to keep this program afloat.
Washingtonians who pay into the program will qualify for a lifetime maximum benefit of $36,500 starting in 2025. Only residents age 18 or older who have paid the payroll tax for either 10 years without interruption of five consecutive years, or three of the last six years, and who work at least 500 hours a year, are eligible. Workers can opt out of the new tax, but only if they are able to purchase private long-term care insurance before Nov. 1, 2021 — and successfully submit for an exemption sometime between Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.
Here are some additional articles on the Long-Term Care Act:
- Long-term care tax looms for nearly all Washington workers (The Columbia Basin Herald)
- Deadline coming on Washington long-term care: private or state plan? (AP News)
- Your only chance to opt out of Washington's long-term care tax is fast approaching (The Puget Sound Business Journal)
To learn more, House Republicans created a webpage that includes frequently asked questions and facts on the Long-Term Care Act payroll tax. If you have questions that can't be found on that page, send me an email. I'll do my best to assist you.
Stay in touch
As always, your input is vital in helping me represent your values in Olympia. Feel free to call or email my office with your comments, concerns, or ideas about state government. My contact information is listed below.
In your service,