Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As you probably know by now, the 2021 legislative session is a 'remote' one, with most staff and legislators working from home due to the coronavirus. This isn't what I want. This isn't what my House Republican colleagues want. But the majority party sets the rules in Olympia, and outside of a few legislators in senior leadership positions or those with unreliable internet connections, we're all working from our districts.
That doesn't mean that your voice is limited, however. In fact, after years of insisting on remote testimony in the House, last year's trial run proved to be invaluable as all House committees – every bill – will accept remote testimony!
To testify remotely or submit written comments on legislation in the House, click here. To testify remotely or submit written comments on legislation in the Senate, click here. I urge you to stay involved in YOUR state government as it is imperative, now more than ever, to hold your elected leaders accountable. Written comments on legislation submitted to the committee can be a very effective way of having your voice heard – not just by your specific legislator, but every legislator on that committee.
My committee assignments…
Speaking of committees, I'm pleased to be serving as the ranking Republican on the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee. My experience as the Chief Deputy Treasurer of Spokane County will assist me as we deal with state and local government issues as well as tribal concerns in the state. I also serve on the House Capital Budget Committee where we'll deal with the bricks and mortar part of our budget – construction projects like new schools, university buildings, and important infrastructure.
Finally, I've been asked to serve as an assistant ranking member on the House Transportation Committee. The Spokane region has several important transportation projects, including the North/South Freeway, that need to be finished as we continue to grow and expand our commercial and industrial capacity.
House Democrats release their transportation budget proposal which could raise gas prices by $1 per gallon…
That's right. In the midst of one of the worst economic recessions our state has seen, with families struggling to pay rent, buy food and meet their financial obligations, the majority party in Olympia wants to raise the price of gas by at least $1 per gallon. Their proposal includes a two-year phased-in 18 cents per gallon gas tax increase. In addition, their carbon fee – which will be passed on to consumers – is expected to increase the price per gallon by nearly $1. They also propose a 50% increase in license plate fees, an increase to trailer fees, trip permit fees, quick title fees, RV fees and car rental fees. Their plan would increase transportation spending by $26 billion over the next 16 years yet still leave billions of maintenance and preservation projects unfinished.
All of this doesn't include the governor's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) legislation which passed the House Environment and Energy Committee this week. House Bill 1091 authorizes the Department of Ecology to enact a 'clean fuels program' that is expected to raise the price of gasoline by 57 cents per gallon and diesel by 63 cents.
Believe me when I tell you that this is not a partisan perspective. Here are the most recent media articles on the Democrat plan:
- Washington House Democrats propose massive gas and carbon tax (KXLY)
- Proposal could make Washington state's gas tax highest in US (KING TV)
- Gas taxes and fees could reach $1 per gallon under new Washington state transportation proposal (The Seattle Times)
- Democratic lawmakers propose massive gas tax increase to fund transportation (MyNorthwest)
- Plan to raise gas taxes (KIRO TV)
When the Legislature passed the last gas tax increase a few years ago (before I was in office), the Spokane populace was ensured that the North/South Freeway would finally be finished. But now, I fear some Spokane legislators have forgotten that promise and will once again use the North/South Freeway as a carrot to get folks to support a gas tax increase. I believe promises made should be promised kept. We can – and must – finish these projects within existing revenues and make the maintenance and preservation of our state's roads and highways a priority.
Majority party cedes legislative authority and oversight to the governor…
The first legislation passed by the Legislature this session was Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402. All House Republicans – and three House Democrats – voted against this proposal. Rather than allow for legislative input and oversight of Gov. Inslee's emergency proclamations, this plan rolled up 26 of his “orders” and placed them in perpetuity, until the governor declares the emergency over. Essentially, this gives one person ultimate authority on which businesses stay closed and which can open; which businesses are “essential” and which are not. This is more power than our founding fathers envisioned.
Whether or not you agree with all of his orders, all of us should be wary when one branch of government exceeds their authority. We have separate branches of government – checks and balances – for a reason. Legislators from all over the state, representing millions of constituent voices, should be allowed to weigh in on the governor's orders and examine the effectiveness, necessity and long-term goals of each. Instead, the majority party abdicated our oversight role and gave the governor more power than ever. This is bad governance and sets a dangerous precedent.
REAL Recovery for Washington Act…
I'm supporting House Bill 1334, the REAL Recovery for Washington Act. This proposal will provide immediate financial support to struggling families and small businesses, accelerate the safe reopening of our schools, and support public health. This $4 billion plan utilizes allocated federal funds and our state's rainy day account. It requires NO NEW OR INCREASED TAXES! You can read more about this plan here.
Other ways to stay connected with legislative developments…
Every committee meeting and floor session of the 2021 legislative session will be broadcast on TVW. Here are other helpful resources to help you stay involved and in the know:
- Washington State Legislature | https://leg.wa.gov/
- How a bill becomes a law | https://leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/Bill2Law.aspx
- Accessing the Legislature remotely | https://leg.wa.gov/legislature/Documents/2020/Accessing%20the%20Legislature%20remotely.pdf
- The Ledger – A legislative news aggregator | https://waledger.houserepublicans.wa.gov/
- Read and sign up for The Capitol Buzz | https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/stay-connected/capitol-buzz/
- Our priorities | https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/our-priorities/
- Republican letters to Gov. Jay Inslee | https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/2020/05/22/republican-letters-to-gov-jay-inslee/
- Legislature's 'Four Corners' square off on state challenges in 2021 (op-eds from four caucus leaders) | https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/legislatures-four-corners-square-off-on-state-challenges/
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Resources | https://houserepublicans.wa.gov/coronavirus/
I want to thank you for allowing me to serve once again as your state Representative from the 6th District. It is an honor to be your voice in Olympia.