Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We just passed the final major deadline of this year's 60-day legislative session, which is scheduled to adjourn next Thursday. Tonight marked the final opportunity for lawmakers in the House to pass bills that originated in the Senate, and vice-versa. The only bills exempted from this deadline are those deemed necessary to implement the budget.
While House Democrats found the time tonight to pass a bill that would make pickleball Washington's official state sport, they did not find the time to pass the Senate's emergency powers reform bill. Instead of voting to take power away from the governor, they instead voted to take power away from law-abiding gun owners through Senate Bill 5078. If signed into law, the bill would—after going into effect on July 1—prohibit the sale, manufacture and distribution of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. That clearly violates the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 24 of our state's constitution, which reads: “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired.” It is deeply disappointing that the last major bill the majority passed before cutoff is one that would infringe on responsible gun owners' rights and their ability to defend themselves in life-threatening situations.
Tonight was the latest in a string of long nights spent debating bills on the House floor, including the 2022 supplemental operating budget and a $16.8 billion transportation package. The operating budget we passed last Saturday contains a lot of good things, as most budgets do. However, we missed an opportunity to use our record $15 billion budget surplus to provide meaningful tax relief for you and your family. House Republicans introduced an amendment that would've cut the state sales tax by a half-point, but it was rejected. The budget we passed spends $65 billion in state funds, an increase of $6.2 billion (10.5%) over current 2021-23 spending, but does nothing to alleviate the financial pressures so many of you are facing due to skyrocketing inflation, the highest gas prices we've seen in years, and supply chain shortages.
We also missed an opportunity to allocate $100 million in unspent federal stimulus funds to fund the police through:
- $5,000 signing and retention bonuses.
- $90,000 grants to local law enforcement agencies for body camera costs.
- Funding for 10 additional Basic Law Enforcement Academy classes in each fiscal year, for a total of 25 classes per year.
- $150,000 for a study and recommendations on police officer recruitment and retention efforts, police staffing levels and how those compare to recommended levels, how much is spent on policing in Washington as compared to other states, and how to address police recruitment and retention over the long term.
Our amendment to allocate these funds was rejected, which makes me concerned that we will not see a decrease in crime or more police officers joining the force any time soon. It is unacceptable that our state ranks last in the nation in terms of the number of police officers per thousand people. We have to support our men and women in law enforcement and we have to get serious about public safety. There is no other option.
I mentioned we also passed a $16.8 billion transportation package. Much like the operating budget, it too will do some good things for communities in our state. However, it's very focused on western Washington. That's not surprising since the majority never reached out to any House Republican members to get their input. The worst thing about the package is that it levies a number of new taxes and fees on Washingtonians. Again, we should be cutting taxes, not raising them or adding new fees that make life more expensive.
Last year, House Republicans introduced a plan to modernize transportation funding by utilizing the general fund, preserve and maintain our existing infrastructure, complete the state's backlog of projects (including Connecting Washington projects), and redirect vehicle sales tax to transportation projects across the state—all without raising taxes and fees on anyone or anything. I believe that would have been a better way forward for our state.
An update on my bills
In my last email update, I provided an overview of House Bills 2019 and 2044, both of which were unanimously approved by the House earlier this session.
House Bill 2019, which is designed to grow Washington's workforce and strengthen the retail industry, also received unanimous approval in the Senate. As I've said before, as we attempt to navigate an ever-changing landscape due to the pandemic, our focus must be on creating an economic environment that's favorable for business and job growth. House Bill 2019 would help us develop additional pathways for Washingtonians to find jobs in retail, while also developing the education and training necessary for employees to succeed and achieve greater upward mobility. I'm grateful for the support it received in the House and Senate, and am glad it's now on the governor's desk.
Unfortunately, House Bill 2044 (ransomware protection) did not receive a hearing in the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. That surprised me because businesses, agencies and other entities in Washington experienced more ransomware attacks than ever before last year. According to the Attorney General's 2021 Data Breach Report, ransomware attacks accounted for 61% of all cyberattacks (150 of 245) and more than half of all data breaches (150 of 280). It is clear we have a cybersecurity problem in Washington. At some point, we have to get serious about protecting Washingtonians and safeguarding their personal data.
Washington must divest from Russia
My heart breaks over what we've been seeing in Ukraine since February 24. Earlier this week, I signed on to a bill sponsored by House Republican Reps. Drew Stokesbary and Drew MacEwen that takes a stand against Vladimir Putin and his authoritarian regime. It would require all state agencies in Washington to cancel their outstanding contracts with Russian companies, while also requiring the State Investment Board to divest from its pension and other investments in Russian companies.
Part of the bill declares: “Washington stands firmly in support of Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and strongly condemns Russia's military actions against Ukraine.” It is important for us to make that declaration as lawmakers, but we also must go a step further by ensuring Vladimir Putin's regime doesn't receive a dime of Washington taxpayers' dollars.
House Bill 2135 has been referred to the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee.
Honored to be recognized by the Washington Economic Development Association
Two weeks ago, I received an email from the executive director of the Washington Economic Development Association (WEDA) letting me know I had been named one of their Legislative Economic Development Champions. While it is a tremendous honor to be recognized in this way by WEDA, I know I could not do this job as successfully without the support and guidance I continually receive from legislative staff, community leaders, small business owners, and all of you. Working on public policy is truly a team effort, and I am so grateful to be in a position to make a positive difference for the mighty 8th District and communities across the state. As the ranking member of the House Community and Economic Development Committee, I have been and will continue to be intently focused on growing jobs and revitalizing communities as our state continues to recover from the pandemic.
Please continue contacting me with your comments, questions and concerns. My email address is Matt.Boehnke@leg.wa.gov, and my office number is (509) 315-2315.
It is an honor to serve you.