Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The final gavel has dropped on the 2022 legislative session. Nearly 1,500 bills were introduced between the House and Senate and 310 ultimately passed both chambers. The governor has already signed some of those bills into law, while several others await his signature.
We passed some good policies that will do positive things in Washington. However, as we head in to this interim, I leave Olympia feeling like there were too many missed opportunities to help Washingtonians now, and in the years to come.
Republicans entered this session with high hopes. We offered numerous real solutions to the many pressing issues facing our state. But in the end, majority party Democrats passed mostly partisan legislation that failed to address many of the most pressing issues we have.
To put it simply, the majority party massively increased spending, offered no tax relief to the people of Washington, failed to correct the terrible police reform bills passed last session, failed to find a solution for the long-term care act and income tax, made our communities less safe, added dozens of new taxes and fees to pay for an irresponsible transportation spending package, and allowed the governor to continue running the state without any checks and balances from the Legislature, under the guise of a “state of emergency” (SOE) that no longer exists.
We could have done so much more had the majority party been willing to work with us and consider ideas and perspectives from both sides of the aisle. We are at our best when we work together to create sensible policies that our constituents expect. I will be busy this interim continuing to work on real solutions for the many issues we face.
Emergency Powers Still Unchecked
One of my top priorities this session was emergency powers reform. This is not a partisan issue. Whether the governor is a Republican or Democrat, there needs to be checks and balances and the Legislature needs to have a voice in the process. That's why I cosponsored House Bill 1772, which would have increased legislative involvement in gubernatorial proclamations relating to a state of emergency.
Among other things, this bill would've limited a SOE to 60 days, unless extended by the Legislature. It also would've limited governor orders that prohibit certain actions during a SOE to 30 days, unless extended by the Legislature. This approach would strike a balance to allow for quick executive action and legislative approval.
The Senate did pass Senate Bill 5909, but in reality this legislation did nothing to limit the governor's power. It did make it to the House floor, but never came up for a vote. As soon as the majority party realized Republicans wanted to discuss and perfect this bill, they pulled it down, then blamed us for killing the bill.
Although I was allowed on the floor for a total of eight days near the end of session due to the majority's COVID rules, I gave it my all. We spent many late nights debating, including one debate that lasted until 6:30 a.m. Yet, the majority party still chose not to pass any emergency powers reform, despite our best efforts. This was a huge, missed opportunity and there's still no end in sight for the end of this SOE, meaning the governor will continue to operate with unchecked power.
Police Reform Failures
Fixing the police reform bills from last session was also a top priority. Crime continues to rise, while sentences for criminals get shorter. Our communities are not safe, and our law enforcement officers face greater risks with fewer tools at their disposal to prevent and fight crime. However, the majority party was not willing to go far enough to fix these issues. They passed a couple of bills that will help, but these are minor fixes that won't do enough to clear up the confusion.
House Bill 1735 has been signed into law. This is on the civil side of use of force and mainly intended for vulnerable persons and those experiencing a behavioral/mental health crisis. However, it does not include a definition of what constitutes physical force. House Bill 2037, which provides these definitions, did pass but is not as strong as originally introduced.
Unfortunately, House Bill 1788, which would've allowed law enforcement officers to conduct vehicular pursuits with reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or is committing a crime did not make it to the House floor for a vote. This is one of the biggest issues law enforcement officers have complained about, yet there is still no fix. Officers are still required to meet the higher standard of probable cause in order to pursue suspects. This will continue to hamper the efforts of law enforcement to detain and arrest criminals.
We offered real solutions to the police pursuit policy and several other issues in our Safe Washington Plan, but they were not addressed. Instead of cracking down harder on crime, the majority party is making it easier for bad actors to get away with just about anything. I'm sure we will be talking about this again during the 2023 legislative session because the problems have not been adequately addressed.
Still no Improvement in Affordability
State government must learn to live within its means, just like it expects us to do. Yet Washington continues to get less affordable every day.
1. Operating Budget/No Tax Relief – We had a $15 billion budget surplus, but instead of increasing our rainy-day fund, the majority party voted to spent it all. Our own state treasurer has expressed concern that we need to have more money in reserves to keep our credit rating intact. Optimally, reserves should be 10 percent and we are only at 2-3 percent. Even worse, we did not give anything back to our constituents. The Republican budget proposed both sales and property tax relief. However, not even the highly touted one-time sales tax holiday from House Democrats made it into the final budget. We could have fully funded our priorities in these uncertain times without raising taxes. Yet, that's what the majority party has chosen to do. This chart shows the state's spending per biennium since 2011-13.
2. Transportation Spending Package – Democrats also passed a 16-year $17 billion transportation spending package. While they did not technically increase the “gas tax,” the truth is the transportation package is directly funded by taxes on gasoline from the cap-and-trade bill passed last year, amounting to a $5.4 billion tax increase in the next several years. Drivers will pay more at the pump and dozens of new taxes and fees to pay for this package. Sadly, the transportation funding package also irresponsibly raided the Public Works Trust Account. Again, we offered real solutions that solved our transportation problems without any new taxes or fees and without raiding reserves. Our plan was never considered.
3. Long-Term Care Act – I am sad and frustrated that we only postponed the long-term care act instead of repealing it like we should have. Republicans offered several options to do this, but instead the majority party simply voted to delay the program for 18 months. Voters have rejected similar programs twice, and I'm sure we'll have to address this issue again next year.
4. Capital Gains Tax – It's also unfortunate that we did not repeal the capital gains income tax passed last year. The first legal decision is in, and the court rightly ruled the tax unconstitutional. We will continue to watch how this plays out, as the state Attorney General has already appealed the decision.
We need to do better. The majority party's spending is out of control, and they are leaving nothing in reserve for our state, or for the people of Washington to whom that money rightly belongs. It's time to start living within our means.
Update on My Legislation
Two of my bills have been signed into law. House Bill 1984 will require paper-issued registration certificates for vehicles, trailers, and vessels to be printed to allow for the manual removal of a registrant's address, by the named registered owner. This will correct an ongoing issue that leaves victims of car theft susceptible to further crimes by allowing them to keep their personal information private.
The governor also signed House Bill 1930, which will allow cosmetologists and similar licensees whose licenses expired, or were canceled, on or after March 1, 2020, to renew their license before June 30, 2023. We should do anything we can to help those who have been hurt by the COVID shutdown get back in the game. But there is more to do in the interim. I plan to continue working with cosmetologists in the coming months to develop more comprehensive legislation.
Capital Budget Allocations
The bipartisan supplemental capital budget was finalized and passed in the last few days of session. I'm pleased to report the 25th District received an additional $2.9 million for local projects for 2022-23. That includes $800,000 for the stormwater system upgrade at 4th St. NW. For a complete list of local projects, click on this link and select the 25th Legislative District in the drop down window and then hit the “view report” button.
Thank You and Please Stay in Touch
The 60-day session went so fast, but it was another wonderful learning experience. I served on five committees and worked non-stop for policies that make sense for the people of the 25th District. I appreciate your input and feedback throughout these last two months. I sincerely hope you will continue reaching out to me during the interim. Now that most of the COVID restrictions have been removed, I'm excited to start meeting with you in-person. If you'd like to meet with me, please use the contact info below. It's truly my privilege to represent you in the 25th District. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.
It's an honor.