Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today marks Day 30, the halfway point of the 60-day legislative session. The time is going by very quickly as we work to meet deadlines and pass bills out of committees.
Last Thursday, Feb. 3, was the House policy committee cutoff and yesterday, Feb. 7, was the fiscal committee cutoff. Bills that have not passed from their respective committees by now are considered “dead” for the session. Legislation necessary to implement the budget is exempt from the deadlines.
I am pleased to report three of my prime-sponsored bills have passed their respective committees and one has already passed the House of Representatives unanimously and is in the Senate. We expect to work long hours on the House floor throughout the week and possibly into the weekend as the next major deadline, floor cutoff, approaches Feb. 15.
Caldier bills advancing with bipartisan support
It is very difficult, especially when you are in the minority, to get movement on any prime-sponsored bills. I’m pleased to report the following bills are advancing, with one already passed to the Senate. I will be spending time this week with members on both sides of the aisle working to get the other two voted off the House floor before the floor cutoff one week from today.
- House Bill 1183 – Home sharing support grants. This measure would create a home sharing support grant program using some money from the state’s document recording fee. The home sharing program is a cost-effective, innovative solution that matches homeless people with homeowners willing to share space on their property. The cost to get them housed is less than $1,000 on average per person. This is in comparison to other more costly programs, such as tiny buildings purchased in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood by the state Department of Commerce to house homeless people, which have cost more than $300,000 per studio unit. This bill passed the House, 95-0, and is now in the Housing and Local Government Committee in the Senate. Read my news release on its House passage.
- House Bill 1950 – Protecting patients from certain unsafe dental practices. This would put protections in place for online “teledentistry,” similar to protections that exist with online “telemedicine” services. Passed from the House Health Care and Wellness Committee on Jan. 31. Now on the House floor awaiting a vote.
- House Bill 2038 – Supporting children with child welfare services. I’ve worked with KING 5 Investigative Reporter Chris Ingalls over the past two years to draw attention to problems within our state’s foster care system and to promote changes. I’m a foster parent, so I’m well aware of the challenges of placing kids with behavioral problems in stable foster homes. This bill would reduce group home care and help put these children in foster parent homes where they are in a more stable environment. The measure would improve training and workforce development, as well as recruitment for foster parents. It also would provide enhanced rates for foster parents willing to take hard-to-place kids. Passed from the House Children, Youth and Families Committee on Feb. 2. The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill on Feb. 7. It is now in the House Rules Committee, awaiting to be pulled to the floor for a vote.
For a look at all of my prime-sponsored and secondary-sponsored bills for 2021-22, go here.
Baby bonds – My position
I was recently featured as a guest on the Seattle Channel’s City Inside/Out discussing why I am in opposition to a bill that would set up a government “baby bonds” program. I invite you to watch the video by clicking here or on the photo below.
Thousands sign in support of emergency powers reform legislation
It’s been nearly two years since Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Feb. 29, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our state government was never intended for this governor, or any other governor, to have that much power.
There have been numerous efforts to address the disparity between the executive and legislative branches of our state government we have experienced during the pandemic. It appears some of those efforts are picking up support. For example, more than 5,200 people signed in on Jan. 31 to support House Bill 1772. This bipartisan bill would limit the governor’s state of emergency powers to 60 days, unless extended by the Legislature. It would also limit the governor’s executive orders prohibiting certain actions during a state of emergency to 30 days, unless extended by the Legislature.
In the Senate, my seatmate, Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, has introduced Senate Bill 5909. This may be the preferred approach of the majority party. This bill would allow the four leaders of the legislative caucuses to end a state of emergency after 90 days if the Legislature is not in session. The measure passed the Senate State Government and Elections Committee on Feb. 2. It is now on the Senate floor awaiting a vote.
Long-term care program and tax delayed 18 months
One of the major actions of the Legislature during the first two weeks of the session was to fix problems within the state’s new long-term care insurance and payroll tax program, also known as WA Cares. On Jan. 27, Gov. Inslee signed House Bill 1732 into law, which delays the insurance tax and program for 18 months. It is now scheduled to begin July 2023 with benefits delayed until July 2026. He also signed House Bill 1733 which will create four new voluntary exemptions from the program.
Republicans offered to bring two other options to the House floor for a vote. House Bill 1594 would have been a full repeal, while House Bill 1913 was a repeal and replace measure with a voluntary component to it. The majority party turned down the attempt to bring both to a vote.
There are still some concerns about this program, especially centering around its long-term solvency. You can read what our State Actuary had to say about that here. Hopefully, this delay will provide time to address the issue for further adjustments in the 2023 session.
There’s still time for tax relief
The graphic above is very eye-opening, showing that in 10 years, our state’s general fund budget is on track to more than double. As I noted in my last email update to you, Washington now has the largest four-year budget surplus in state history — $8.8 billion, with another $2.2 billion in reserves, and another $1.2 billion in unspent federal stimulus funds.
State government is doing very well financially. Unfortunately, many citizens are not and continue struggling to make ends meet. Families are paying more for groceries, energy, fuel, and medical costs. We should be giving some of that surplus back to the hard-working families in our state.
I am the co-sponsor of House Bill 1898, that would lower property taxes. We also have bills that would expand the state’s Working Families Tax Credit and alleviate consumer inflation. Unfortunately, none of these bills have been given a public hearing. In fact, it is looking less likely that the majority party is open to meaningful tax relief. A Democratic state senator introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce the state sales tax rate, and it has not even received a public hearing.
There is still time in the session to help families across Washington state. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am constantly seeking ways to make every taxpayer dollar count. The state is flush with money. It’s time to give some of that back to the people who first earned it.
Stay informed, stay in touch!
I have received thousands of emails, messages and phone calls from you on a variety of issues. I urge you to stay engaged. We will be debating and voting on important issues affecting our communities and state. Please continue to contact me with any questions, concerns or comments you have. I appreciate your input and feedback. My contact information is below.
It is an honor to proudly serve you and the 26th Legislative District.