Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and were able to take some time to reflect on what and who you're thankful for. As I did my own reflecting, I thought about this job and how grateful I am for the opportunity to serve you in the Legislature. From day one, my goal has been to make a positive difference for the 8th District and our state. I want to help make Washington the best place in the nation to live, go to school, raise a family, start a business, and retire. I am confident we can get there, but only if we as a Legislature start focusing on real solutions that benefit all Washingtonians. In this update, I want to provide an overview of the solutions we've come up with as House Republicans to make communities safer, provide meaningful tax relief, hold government accountable, and ensure parents have more of a say in their children's education.
Note: Due to legislative restrictions, I won't be able to send out another update until after the 2022 legislative session begins on Jan. 10. However, I'll still be able to respond to your emails, phone calls and letters, so please feel free to contact me anytime. My email address is Matt.Boehnke@leg.wa.gov, and my district office number is (509) 315-2315.
2022 House Republican agenda
While there are so many important issues we need to tackle, House Republicans are going to have four main areas of focus during the upcoming 60-day session:
- Public safety
- Life affordability
- Government accountability
- Empowering parents
We have a lot of work to do when it comes to public safety. The police reform bills passed by the Democrats earlier this year have created confusion, made volatile situations more dangerous, and enabled criminals to escape justice. As a reminder, these are some of the headlines we've seen as a result of House Bills 1054 and 1310 becoming law:
- Bonney Lake officers say new reform laws kept them from tracking armed suspect
- Man jumps onto cop car, allegedly hits officer who was following police reform rules
- They had probable cause after he made threats, but law prevented Bellingham police pursuit
- Trying to follow new state laws, WSP shut down I-82 Sunday rather than removed woman from roadway
- Deputies searching for suspect after man shot dead in Puyallup parking lot
- State Patrol says troopers were unable to pursue wrong way driver because of new law
- DV suspect evades police as officers adhere to legislative changes
- Tri-Cities woman slashes tires on 3 cop cars. New law kept police from stopping her sooner
It's clear these bills are deeply flawed, so we will be working to pass legislation to provide immediate fixes. We simply cannot have laws on the books in Washington that make it harder for our men and women in law enforcement to do their jobs. Their work is challenging enough as it is. I am confident we can hold them to the highest possible standard while also making sure we're not taking away the tools they need to effectively serve our communities.
As I've shared before, Washington already ranks 51st out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of the number of police officers per thousand people. It's been that way for 11 consecutive years. If we continue passing harmful bills that make their lives more difficult, we will continue losing them to other professions and our communities will become less safe. That cannot happen, which is why in addition to fixing the Democrats' flawed police reform bills, we're also working on bills that would allocate state funding for the recruitment of new police officers and the retention of existing officers already on the job. I was glad to see a recent poll that showed 49% of Washingtonians believe the police need more funding, while just 16% say they need less.
With tax collections remaining strong, per the latest state revenue forecast, the Legislature is expected to enter the 2022 session with a four-year budget surplus of around $10 billion. With that large of a surplus, there is no reason why we can't pass meaningful tax relief during the upcoming 60-day session. In my view, we must do everything we can to alleviate financial burdens that exist due to the pandemic or because of policies passed by the majority party. To that end, we would like to do three things next year: provide a large property tax cut, expand the working families tax credit for those with children under 18 years of age, and repeal the Democrats' long-term care insurance program and mandatory payroll tax. House Republican Reps. Joe Schmick and Peter Abbarno have already drafted legislation to repeal the state program. Why, you ask? I'll let Rep. Schmick explain:
“This program creates the false hope that people's long-term care needs will be satisfied, when in fact, it will be woefully inadequate for the majority of those who eventually need long-term care. People who live out of state but work in Washington, those who are within 10 years of retirement, and workers who eventually move out of state, will be forced to pay into this program, but will likely never receive a benefit. Nearly 63 percent of voters said last year during an advisory vote this should be repealed. And many people weren't aware until it was too late to opt-out that they would be forced to surrender a portion of their wages to the state through a long-term care payroll tax.”
It's simply bad policy. We need fewer of those and more policies that let you keep more of your hard-earned money. That will be our message throughout the 2022 session.
It's been 640 days since Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On day 597, nearly 2,000 Washingtonians were fired or forced to quit due to the vaccine mandate he put in place for state workers. I've said it before and I'll say it again: No one in state government should have the unilateral authority to do whatever they want for months or years on end. It doesn't matter if that person is a Republican or a Democrat.
During this year's 105-day session, House Republicans worked tirelessly to pass emergency powers reform. We sponsored several bills and repeatedly argued it was critical for the Legislature (and for you!) to have a role during this ongoing state of emergency.
- House Bill 1020: Concerning the emergency powers of the governor.
- House Bill 1029: Concerning orders and rules during a state of emergency.
- House Bill 1060: Requiring legislative approval to extend a gubernatorial proclamation of a state of emergency.
- House Bill 1557: Increasing legislative involvement in gubernatorial proclamations relating to a state of emergency.
Even if some in the majority party agreed with us privately, they stuck together and decided to block our efforts to restore the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. This signaled to the governor that he could continue ruling unilaterally without having to worry about checks and balances. As a result, he later instituted a vaccine mandate and hard-working Washingtonians lost their jobs.
I have made it clear that I want people in the 8th District to get vaccinated. This isn't about vaccines. This about ensuring we have a functional three-branch state government that serves you well. Incidentally, many major media outlets around the state have agreed with us on this issue:
- The Columbian: Legislature should act to balance government
- Tri-City Herald: Gov. Inslee's emergency powers over COVID have gone unchecked long enough
- Tri-City Herald: WA Gov. Jay Inslee has too much power over COVID. Lawmakers must fix the law
- The News Tribune: Inslee should expand his bubble, call special session of Washington Legislature
- The News Tribune: Curbing Inslee's emergency power all but dead. We should learn from Texas, New York
- The Seattle Times: A legislative check on the governor
- The News Tribune: It's time for Washington Legislature to check Gov. Inslee's pandemic superpowers
In addition to emergency powers reform, the other major issue we'll be focused on as it relates to government accountability is the state's homelessness crisis. From The Seattle Times:
“Washington saw one of the biggest estimated increases in people experiencing homelessness in the country between 2019 and 2020, according to new national figures from an annual report to Congress. Overall homelessness across the U.S. grew by more than 2% that year, according to the report's estimates, but Washington saw an overall increase of 6.2%, or 1,346 people — the third largest increase in the number of homeless people among all 50 states.”
House Republicans believe there is a better approach than the one we have now. We'd like to send roughly $400 million per biennium directly to cities and counties so that they, not Olympia bureaucrats, can pursue the best solutions for their communities. In exchange, municipalities would have to remove encampments near schools, parks and playgrounds, and refrain from opening supervised injection sites.
That seems like a fair trade to me. We'll see if the majority agrees.
In addition to the above priorities, we are going to be focused on empowering parents to become more involved in their children's education. We believe parents have a right to know what is being taught in the classroom and that transparency is crucial to ensuring trust in our K-12 education system. To that end, we have two proposals.
- Require the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to seek public input and provide an opportunity for public comment when developing learning standards and grade-level expectations.
- Require each school to disclose a listing of the actual instructional materials, including supplemental materials, used during the past academic year on a publicly accessible part of its website and have that link sent directly to parents. This would be modeled after the Goldwater Institute's Academic Transparency Act.
We will also be looking to expand the number of charter schools in our state. While 40 charter schools were authorized by Initiative 1240 and subsequent reauthorization legislation, just 16 are currently in operation. That's unfortunate because charter schools are meeting the needs of students who have struggled in their assigned public school. The results we've seen so far have been excellent, with charter schools outperforming traditional public schools in reading and math. Our goal is to expand these opportunities for more families across the state.
I would love to hear from you regarding these priorities or anything else that's on your mind as we move closer to the start of the 2022 session. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime with your comments, questions or concerns. My email address is Matt.Boehnke@leg.wa.gov, and my district office number is (509) 315-2315.
It is an honor to serve you. I'll be back with another update in the new year!