Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Friday was Policy Committee Cutoff, a designated day on which most bills without budgetary impacts that did not pass out of their policy committees die. Of the nearly 1,200 bills sponsored in the state House of Representatives this year, roughly 460 bills have survived this first legislative deadline. While the pool of bills will get further winnowed as session progresses, I wanted to share my thoughts and concerns on a few bills that are, for the time being, still alive this legislative session. You can read about those below.
The end of this week will mark Fiscal Committee Cutoff. Similar to Policy Committee Cutoff, bills referred to fiscal committees that do not pass those committees will be considered dead for the year, unless they are deemed necessary to implement the budget.
Bills of concern
House Bill 1087 – Creating the Long-Term Care Trust Act. Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, premiums of 0.58 percent of wages would be collected from employees to pay for a state long-term care program. For an employee making $50,000 a year, they would pay $24/month. I have a few concerns about this bill:
- It doesn't take into account future, rising costs of long-term care. Right now, tuition and health care costs are far outpacing inflation. It won't be long until the same is true for long-term care. If rates begin to grow faster than what's assumed in this bill, the model will need to be adjusted. That will mean growing the benefit, and eventually increasing the payroll taxes.
- It's a false promise. The benefits outweigh employee contributions. If you're newly entering the workforce, you will end up paying more into the system than what you get out of it.
- The youngest are hit the hardest. This bill asks young people to pay into a system – a system that, as I mentioned above, may not yield substantial benefits in the long run – that doesn't make financial sense for them. We would be asking the employees who will be in the workforce for another 20-40 years to subsidize care for people who only have a few more years left in their jobs.
- There's no opportunity to opt out. House Republicans offered an amendment that would have placed the mandatory premium collection on the ballot as a referendum, but it was voted down by the majority.
While I think we can and should do more to address the age wave, I don't think this is the best and most responsible solution to do so.
House Bill 1491 – Requiring restrictive scheduling of employers in the food service, hospitality, and retail industries. The bill would require employers to provide employees their work schedules at least two weeks in advance, or else pay a $100/day fine. It also puts limits on how often an employee can work. This bill poses unnecessary challenges to employers, and ultimately impacts employees. Some testified before the Legislature that they want to continue having the option to work double shifts so they can keep their schedules flexible, but this bill would prohibit that.
House Bill 1515 – Forcing sole proprietors and independent contractors to work for an employer. In my last email update, I shared information about grassroots efforts, organized predominantly by hair stylists and cosmetologists, to pump the brakes on this bill that would harm the ability of many to be self-employed. Thankfully, the bill has been significantly modified. Given we can't stop the majority from passing this bill, we got the best we could by limiting the bill to creating a work group on employee classification. To ensure the harmful proposals that were in the original bill don't make their way out of the work group, we'll need independent contractors and sole proprietors in all affected industries to continue making their voices heard.
Senate Bill 5339 – Eliminating the death penalty | Senate Bill 5819 – Eliminating the sentence of “life without the possibility of parole”. By eliminating the death penalty, we would be taking away an important bargaining tool for prosecutors. And Democrats want to take it one step further by doing away with the next highest sentence: life without the possibility of parole. That would mean the highest punishment murderers and violent predators could receive would be life in prison with parole, the equivalent of 15-20 years with good behavior. Spokane is already seeing the release of dangerous, sexually violent predators. If these bills were to be enacted into law, how much sooner could these offenders have been released?
In addition to the above, there are a number of bills that would restrict law-abiding citizens from their constitutional access to firearms. You can learn more about some of those proposals here.
Allowing county treasurers to contract with each other
I have one bill that will be surviving this week's cutoff as it's already made its way to the House floor and is awaiting a vote. House Bill 2072 would authorize two independently elected officials to contract with each other for their statutory duties, including banking, investment services, and technology projects.
Banking and other financial services can pose challenges to rural communities with limited resources. And when it comes to financial contracts, volume is key. The more counties involved in a contract, the more negotiating power you have, leading to better services at better prices for residents.
Lakeside Middle School student serves as legislative page in state House
I was honored to sponsor Lakeside Middle School student Cassi Davis as a page for the Washington State House of Representatives earlier this month. Cassi is an exceptionally bright and driven student, and I appreciated her enthusiasm and professionalism during her week-long service to the state.
She had nothing but wonderful things to say about the program: “While paging at the Capitol, I got to meet amazing people from around the state, work with the representatives, and participate in making the state a better place. I loved the experience and would enjoy doing it again.”
If you have a student between the ages of 14 and 16 that would like to serve as a page in the Legislature, apply here. It's a great experience for youth to get hands-on experience with public service, and an excellent opportunity to form friendships with students from across the state.