Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the cherry trees on the Capitol Campus in full bloom, we are entering the last few weeks of the 2019 session. Our next legislative deadline is Opposite House cutoff on April 17. With the exception of budget matters, initiatives and bills necessary to implement the budget, it's the last day for the Senate and House to consider the opposite chamber's bills.
Senate Bill 5205 would “restrict firearm possession by individuals found incompetent to stand trial and who have a history of one or more violent acts.” This comes directly from the bill description. Upon a surface level reading of the bill, it appears reasonable. People guilty of heinous, violent acts should not have access to firearms.
What the proposed law does do is define what a “violent act” is. Statutes dealing with violence list the qualifiers of the criminal action. This bill does not. By leaving out the definition, accusations of past violent acts, like a schoolyard fight in someone's school records or a soldier returning home who saw combat action, or even breaking some dishes in your own home in anger, could later be used as evidence to take away an individual's firearms.
Americans enjoy the benefits of due process. The power of the law must be balanced with the protection of individual rights. According to the 14th Amendment, “Nor shall any state deprive any person of life liberty, or property, without the due process of the law.” The burden of proving guilt falls upon the prosecution, not on the accused. Under this proposal, due process gets flipped upside down—you could be accused with little to no evidence and have to prove your innocence. That is not due process as defined by the U.S. Constitution. I voted “no.” The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 30 to 17 and the House 54 to 38. It now heads to the governor for signature.
Senate Bill 5508 would require the background check for an original concealed pistol license by conducted through the Washington State Patrol Criminal Identification Section. A fingerprint background check through the Fed through the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also required. The bill was approved by the Senate 47-0 and the House 93 to 0. It now heads to the governor for signature.
With more than $2.8 billion in surplus revenue, our state's financial outlook is the best it's been since the Great Recession. Bottom line, our revenue is ample enough to supply funding for all our state's priorities. Unfortunately, both the Democrat-sponsored House and Senate budget proposals commit every new revenue dollar and include significant tax increases. With economists predicting an economic downturn in the coming years, this may lead to the same painful budget cuts the state faced with the onset of the recession in 2007-08.
Now that the Democratic-controlled House and Senate have approved their respective spending plans, any differences in the plans must be reconciled. Lawmaker's representing both chambers will be meeting over the next few weeks to negotiate a final spending plan that will be submitted to the full Legislature.
Here are some of the key differences and similarities in these dueling budgets:
- The Senate plan spends about $52 billion in 2019-21, which is about $1 billion less than the House's proposal.
- The Senate includes $1.1 billion in new taxes as compared to the House's plan of $4.4 billion, over the next four years.
- The Senate plan leaves an ending fund balance of about $564 million compared to the House's $128 million.
- The House proposal spends nearly twice as much on K-12 special education, including increased access to safety net funding.
- The House plan depends primarily on an income tax on capital gains earnings, adjustments to the real estate excise tax (REET), and increases to certain business and occupation (B&O) taxes.
- The Senate's version uses revenues gained from the tax to changes to the real estate excise tax (REET). However, a separate bill, Senate Bill 5961, would impose an 8.9 percent income tax on capital gains.
Would you like to learn more about the budget process?
- A Citizens Guide to the Washington State Budget (2019)
- Washington State's Revenue Forecast
- Democrat-sponsored House and Senate 2019-21 biennium operating budget proposals
If you have any questions or concerns about the legislation discussed in this update or other state government-related matters, please feel free to give me a call at (360) 786-7816 or send an email to email@example.com. I'm always glad to help!
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Olympia.