Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the National Guard posted around the Capitol campus, lawmakers gathered in person for one day only on Monday, Jan. 11th for two critical votes. The first was the majority party's selection for the Speaker of the House, and the second was on the proposed “virtual” session rules, House Resolution 4600. Normally, voting on the House rules is a mere formality; but not this year. Working remotely, hosting committee meetings, and public testimony via Zoom is definitely not normal.
Because I had been exposed to COVID-19 and was on day nine of my quarantine, I was not present to vote. The rules passed on a party-line vote, 55-39. This means for the rest of the session the legislative campus will remain closed to the public.
Remote testimony | A few thoughts on the virtual session
Although meeting over the internet is a handy tool, there is a widely shared desire among constituents and lawmakers that we should be allowed to meet in person. It will be extremely difficult considering this year's public policy challenges—including those presented by COVID-19 and its affects on individuals, families, businesses, and our economy—to assess and support solutions in a remote legislative process.
While I continue to have concerns about the Legislature meeting virtually, I'm delighted to see the success of remote constituent testimony. In 2020 I fully supported the state House of Representatives remote testimony pilot program. In the 2021 virtual session, we are seeing it in action.
Rather than driving to Olympia—which for some is quite a distance—all Washingtonians can testify on legislation from their living room, home office, or even their kitchen table. Using online tools, citizens can sign-up and deliver their comments via Zoom from anywhere. I've heard from several people how much they appreciate this relatively new option for remote testimony.
Capital gains income tax | Senate Bill 5096
The state is no longer experiencing the steep decline in revenue that we saw at the start of the pandemic. In fact, we've rebounded somewhat and are realizing some modest growth. That's important, here's why: It means we don't need to raise taxes. In fact, raising taxes now—just when we are gaining some traction—will only inhibit economic growth.
That's why I'm deeply disappointed to see a push for tax increases. Senate Bill 5096 would impose a 9% income tax on capital gains as small as $25,000. This is not only a tax increase, it's an income tax—something prohibited in our state's constitution. If enacted, it will certainly face legal challenges over its validity.
Senate Bill 5096 was heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee last week, and I'm glad to say Washingtonians from around the state testified remotely in opposition. I want you to know that I stand with you in opposition. Raising taxes now will not only hurt individuals but also job-producing small businesses already suffering financially due to COVID-19.
Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) | House Bill 1091
Along with more taxes, the last thing overburdened Washingtonians need right now is higher fuel costs. House Bill 1091 would mandate the adoption of a costly, ineffective Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). Not only will this raise gas prices, but home heating costs as well.
By some estimates, California's LCFS program raised gas prices by more than .16 cents a gallon, and Oregon's, which is only 15 percent implemented, by .24 cents. This type of taxation, which raises transportation costs, would disproportionately hurt the poor more than the wealthy. In the midst of the financial devastation caused by the pandemic, is this really necessary? Why raise taxes and fuel costs on those who can least afford it?
The governor's emergency powers | SCR 8402
In the ten months since the pandemic began, countless people have contacted my office concerned about the unprecedented actions our governor has taken—without input from the Legislature. What many people don't know is that Republicans spent the interim strongly urging the governor to call a special session. If the executive office had agreed to do so, lawmakers could have identified solutions and helped individuals, families, and job-producing small businesses months ago.
Good government doesn't come from one office. Legislative leaders fear that the fallout from COVID-19 is eroding the checks and balances of our system of government. Too often during the past few months, the governor has acted without consulting the Legislature to create solid, long-term policies.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 8402 packages 26 proclamations from the governor and extends them indefinitely until the executive office ends or rescinds the state of emergency—relegating the Legislature to the sidelines. This is unacceptable at a time when lawmakers have reconvened and should have more of a voice in matters dealing with the pandemic.
Getting real solutions to the people we represent is what you sent legislators to Olympia to do. Unfortunately, SCR 8402 passed the House on a mostly party-line vote, 54 to 44—with 41 Republicans and 3 Democrats standing in opposition. You can watch the floor debate on this important bill by clicking here.
If you have questions about the legislative process or would like to take part by testifying on a bill or making comments, I've posted instructions on my website that can help you navigate the 2021 virtual session.
Now more than ever the Legislature needs to take deliberate action to help struggling businesses. Along with you, I'm closely tracking the following business-related legislative proposals:
- House Bill 1010: Dedicating the state sales tax on a motor vehicle for transportation.
- House Bill 1011: Concerning the renewal dates for liquor licenses.
- House Bill 1012: Providing a business and occupation tax credit to address the economic impacts of the COVD-19 pandemic in the state.
- House Bill 1015: Creating the Washington Equitable Access to Credit Act.
- House Bill 1016: Making Juneteenth a legal holiday.
- House Bill 1017: Concerning legislative oversight of emergency orders.
- House Bill 1021: Concerning the relief of benefit changes when discharge is a result of a gubernatorial declaration of emergency or related executive order.
- House Bill 1033: Concerning the Washington customized employment training program.
- House Bill 1036: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel.
- House Bill 1047: Requiring coverage for hearing instruments for children and adolescents.
- House Bill 1049: Concerning offsite delivery of a vehicle dealer.
- House Bill 1050: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fluorinated gases.
- House Bill 1062: Concerning the creation of a limited spirits retail license.
- House Bill 1073: Expanding coverage of the paid family and medical leave program.
- House Bill 1075: Reducing emissions from vehicles associated with on-demand transportation services.
- House Bill 1076: Allowing whistleblowers to bring actions on behalf of the state for violations of workplace protections.
- House Bill 1084: Reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions by achieving greater decarbonization of residential and commercial buildings.
- House Bill 1087: Clarifying and continuity of employee family and medical leave rights.
- House Bill 1091: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel.
- House Bill 1097: Increasing worker protections.
- House Bill 1098: Concerning unemployment insurance.
- House Bill 1103: Improving environmental and social outcomes with the production of building materials.
- House Bill 1111: Concerning investment income tax deductions.
As always, if you have questions about the bills listed above or other state-government related matters, contact me. I'm always happy to help.