Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The mostly-remote 2022 legislative session has concluded. I want to thank those of you sent emails, phone calls, and letters over the past few months expressing your opinions and thoughts on legislation and other state issues. I appreciate your input and involvement as I strive to represent and serve all of you in the state Legislature.
As I have said on multiple occasions, you and I may not agree on every issue. However, my door is always open and I am willing to listen to your concerns, in person, on the phone, or via email.
While there are too many bills and issues to discuss in a short email update to you, what follows below is quick summary of some of the key issues:
$15 billion surplus but no relief for taxpayers?
With the state expecting a record $15 billion surplus over the next four years many legislators wanted to give some back in the form of tax relief. We offered legislation to reduce the property tax, state sales tax, business and occupation taxes on small businesses and those industries hit hardest by the pandemic. None were accepted. Instead, the majority party spent almost all of it and actually raised taxes and fees in their transportation budget. We missed an opportunity to give some back to taxpayers to help struggling families. Budget writers also left too little in reserves for the inevitable economic downturn. This will result in difficult decisions for future lawmakers who will be forced to cut services or raise taxes. I'm trying to push all of my legislative colleagues to be smarter and more efficient when dealing with taxpayer dollars, and that includes getting the state to live within its means and returning at least a portion of projected surpluses to the taxpayers.
Reforming Gov. Inslee's emergency powers
A large number of you, from all sides, contacted my office concerning the extended use of the governor's emergency powers. These powers dragged lock downs and associated mandates into two years. The majority party refused to pass the emergency powers reform legislation that I cosponsored, House Bill 1772. Like you, I am frustrated that we have been essentially under one-person rule for over two years. Nobody wants to deny the governor's authority in an emergency, but at some point, your elected representatives should vote on extending the mandated results of those powers. You are being denied that appropriate representation.
Long-term care tax and insurance plan
One of the first issues addressed this session was the mandatory long-term care tax and insurance plan. The majority party passed the proposal in 2019 against the wishes of Washington voters. Once employers and employees along with media sources discovered the inequities in this plan and its insolvency, the Legislature decided to delay the tax collections until next year. But in my opinion, there really is no fix for this. There was legislation to repeal and replace the plan. But neither bill passed this session. We'll see what happens next year. Will the 2023 Legislature be more responsive and empathetic to the will of the people? This could be an issue that sees a lot of attention in future years.
Second Amendment bills
Senate Bill 5078 – bans firearms magazines of more than 10 rounds. This new law goes into effect on July 1 and will ban the sale, transfer, and import of so-called “high capacity magazines,” although most gun owners know that this really bans standard magazines as the most popular firearms usually come with a magazine over 10 rounds. You have until July 1 to purchase or acquire firearms magazines over 10 rounds. After that, they are banned. I voted against this bill and spoke against it on the House floor. It passed with no Republican support. You can watch a short mashup video of debate on this issue here.
House Bill 1705 – bans hobbyists and gun enthusiasts, many of them current or former military members, from building or assembling firearms from various parts. This is a misguided attempt to go after so-called “ghost” guns that can't be traced because they don't have serial numbers on certain pieces. Yet it ignores the fact that the majority of ghost guns found at crime scenes are firearms that have had their serial numbers filed or acid etched off. This bill bans what has become a popular hobby of building personal firearms with legally obtained and therefore legal parts. I voted against this bill. It passed with no Republican support.
We were able to fix several of the problems created last year by misguided attempts at police reform. However, addressing lawful police pursuits and several other solutions that we proposed at the beginning of session with our Safe Washington Plan were not accepted. With crime – especially violent crime – continuing to surge, we need to make sure law enforcement has the tools, training, and certainty to do their jobs protecting our communities.
Unfortunately, this year's transportation plan was extremely partisan. In past years, transportation spending has always shown a measure of bipartisanship. That aspect was sorely lacking this session. The transportation package harmfully raids the Public Works Assistance Account, something that local governments use for important infrastructure projects. Additionally, their plan raises too many fees, does not prioritize preservation and maintenance, and ignores needed investments in many parts of our state. For that reason, I voted no.
Thank you for reading this legislative update and for staying involved in your state government. It is an honor to serve you in the state Legislature.