Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Saturday, Feb. 22, from 10-11:30 a.m., I will be hosting a town hall meeting with Sen. Sharon Brown and Rep. Brad Klippert at the Richland Community Center (500 Amon Park Drive). The three of us will provide a brief update on this year's 60-day session and then take your questions. There is much to discuss, so I hope you'll be able to join us. For those of you who can't make it, please know you can always call me at (360) 786-7986 or send me an email with your comments, questions or concerns. I always welcome your feedback!
One topic we'll certainly be discussing during the town hall is the majority's lack of respect for the will of the people. Voters in our state have repeatedly rejected tax increases when they've been on the ballot, whether in the form of a state income tax, a carbon tax, a tax on soda, etc. And yet, the two most significant bills the majority brought to the floor in the first half of this year's session would increase taxes.
One of the bills would impose a low-carbon fuel standard mandate on fuel suppliers that would significantly increase their costs. But it's not the suppliers who would ultimately foot the bill. It's you and me as those costs are passed down. Not only would we see higher gas prices at the pump (one estimate predicts prices could rise by as much as 57 cents), but we'd also see higher grocery prices. Additionally, many of our small businesses would struggle under the weight of rising material and transportation costs.
The bottom line is this bill would hurt a lot of people in exchange for a fractional reduction in the carbon in our atmosphere. That's a bad deal. Our state already leads the nation in electricity generation from renewable sources. We are the nation's largest producer of hydropower. We are doing the right things to ensure we have a clean and healthy environment now and in the future. That's why the mandate in House Bill 1110 is so unnecessary.
Although the bill passed 52-44, our caucus fought hard during the four-hour floor fight. Watch:
The other significant bill the majority introduced, which has since been signed into law by the governor, increases the B&O tax rate on thousands of Washington businesses. Instead of allocating the record revenues taxpayers have sent us to fund college scholarships, the majority decided increasing taxes on builders, landscapers, plumbers, mechanics and tens of thousands of others who run small businesses was a better approach.
While we don't have the votes to stop the majority from passing these types of bills, we will continue doing everything we can to slow them down and hold them accountable for their lack of regard for the will of the people.
An update on my bills
Several bills I introduced this session have been approved in the policy committees tasked with reviewing them.
House Bill 2593 would build on existing efforts to improve state agency accountability and performance by extending the following requirements through the year 2028:
- State agencies that issue permits must track and record performance data regarding permit applications and processing times. In March of even-numbered years, these agencies are required to submit a report to the Office of Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA) with this data.
- In September of even-numbered years, the ORIA is required to publish a comprehensive progress report on the performance of agencies in tracking permit timelines and other efforts to improve regulatory permitting.
House Bill 2594 would require electric utility and natural gas companies to publish—or provide electronically—explanations for all proposed changes to its tariff for at least 30 days. If rates are rising due to policies we're passing here in the Legislature, you deserve to know that. Creating transparency and accountability, which HB 2594 would do, is one of the best ways we can restore your trust in us.
House Joint Memorial 4015 requests Congress to establish a U.S. Space Academy in Washington to support the mission of Space Force, the nation's newest military branch. A devoted space academy to train and equip our workforce for the civilian opportunities and military missions of the future in space would benefit the nation and be a boon to our state's space industry.
House Bill 2596 would direct the state's Department of Commerce to complete a study of public policies that would help develop the new space economy in Washington. The study would also look at the geographic distribution of potential employment and training opportunities. Results would be required to be submitted to the Legislature by October 31, 2021.
All of these bills are now in the House Rules Committee awaiting further action.
Sponsoring local students as House pages
So far this session, I've had the opportunity to sponsor three local students as House pages: Zoe Pfeifer, Bailie Jansons, and Gemma Cannon-Green. All three did a phenomenal job and represented the 8th District well during the week they spent here at the Capitol. Thank you, Zoe, Bailie, and Gemma!
To learn more about the House Page Program, click here.
Please continue contacting me with your comments, questions and concerns about this year's legislative session or anything else that's on your mind. And I hope to see you at the town hall next weekend!