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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Last week, state lawmakers reached house of origin cutoff. This means all bills needed to pass out of their original chamber, or they are considered “dead” for the legislative session. This rule has some exceptions, including legislation necessary to implement the budget. And no bill is ever truly “dead” until the last day. However, this deadline does significantly narrow down the number of bills being considered, which helps focus the work of state lawmakers and everyone engaged in the legislative process.

I have the honor of being House Republican Leader. This allows me to be involved with several issues and work with other caucus leaders and policy leads. In my time in the House, I have never seen our caucus more impactful on major policies — including workforce issues, housing, energy, salmon recovery, and wildfire response. Some of these issues were featured in our Republican media availability on March 9.

When you are in the minority party, you do everything you can to influence legislation. In the first half of the legislative session, 77 bills prime sponsored by House Republicans passed. We also improved some bad bills. And while the minority party can never truly take credit for stopping bad bills, strong opposition to such measures can influence the decisions of the majority party. Finally, House Republicans also lost some battles.

Over the next few weeks, House and Senate committees will consider bills from the opposite chamber. The revenue forecast will also be released on Monday. This report on state tax collections will inform budget writers as they develop the two-year operating budget. We expect budget proposals to be released shortly after the revenue forecast. Rep. Drew Stokesbary, ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, outlined House Republican budget priorities at our media availability on Tuesday — including helping students recover from learning loss, special education and broad-based tax relief. You can watch his comments here.

Below are updates on some of the issues I have heard about the most from constituents.

Vehicular pursuits | House Bill 1363/Senate Bill 5352

In 2021, Democrats passed legislation that, among other things, limited vehicular pursuits for law enforcement. Since its implementation, criminals have felt emboldened to simply drive away from police officers. This has had disastrous consequences for public safety. Republicans pushed for a solution last year, but the bill died in the last days of the legislative session.

Republicans entered the 2023 legislative session with public safety as a priority, including fixing this problem. We built a coalition in the House through bipartisan House Bill 1363, which would restore the reasonable suspicion standard. The measure has 20 Republican sponsors and 20 Democratic sponsors. A watered-down version of the bill passed out of its policy and fiscal committees but got stuck in the House Rules Committee. I tried to pull it from this committee but was denied. House Republicans then attempted to bring the bill to the floor last Tuesday (watch here) but the majority party voted it down.

In a surprise development last Wednesday, the Senate voted out an amended version of the companion measure — Senate Bill 5352 — on a close 26-23 vote. Senate Republican Leader John Braun called the bill “a half-step in the right direction” in this statement. I agree.

The good news is the debate continues. The bad news is there is still a group of House Democrats who refuse to let the original bill move forward — despite the fact 20 of them signed on as sponsors and all House Republicans support it. One of the hardest things to do in politics is admit when you’re wrong. This experiment has failed. And I credit the media for covering the stories since 2021.

Republicans will continue to align with law enforcement, local elected officials, businesses, editorial boards, and concerned citizens across our state on this critical legislation. This issue, and how the Legislature addresses the state’s drug possession laws in response to the Blake decision, will define the legislative session. The bill to watch is Senate Bill 5536. Learn more here:

New major airport site

I will repeat what I said a few weeks ago: Major airport proposals for Pierce and Thurston counties are unlikely to proceed. The Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission seems to be backing away from these sites. I discussed this issue in a short video last week.

House Bill 1791, which I recently voted for, would basically reset the process and create a new Commercial Aviation Work Group. The bill would:

  • Direct the work group to evaluate the commercial aviation needs of Washington within the broader context of state transportation needs and the specific needs of western Washington.
  • Require the work group to investigate the expansion of existing aviation facilities and possible siting locations for new greenfield aviation facilities and report on the strengths and weaknesses of each site considered.

The News Tribune has done a great job covering this issue. You can find a few related stories below:

Abolishing advisory votes | House Bill 1158/Senate Bill 5082

House Bill 1158 and Senate Bill 5082 would repeal the requirement that advisory votes for tax increase legislation appear on the ballot and in the voters’ pamphlet. House Bill 1158 died, but Senate Bill 5082 passed. It received a public hearing in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee last Friday and is scheduled for executive session on Tuesday.

I continue to oppose this legislation. I respect the will of the voters who established these advisory votes in 2007 and believe Washingtonians should be able to weigh in on tax increases passed by the Legislature. If this measure comes to the floor, I can promise you House Republicans will be ready for the debate. I also disagree with the headline below. House Republicans care about the results of advisory votes.

Establishing the Domestic Violent Extremism Commission | House Bill 1333

House Bill 1333 would create the Domestic Violent Extremism Commission. This bill is ill-conceived, dangerous and one of the worst concepts I have seen in my time in the Legislature. I credit the Senate Democrats for not introducing a companion measure. While House Bill 1333 did not advance, no bill is ever truly “dead,” and it will be reintroduced next year.

Our state and country face threats. Some people want to tear us down. But this commission would only cause more distrust and division at a time when we should be trying to bring people together. Let’s let our law enforcement and court system confront threats and hold people who break the law accountable for their actions.

Prohibiting octopus farming | House Bill 1153

There are always issues that come up every legislative session that you don’t anticipate, and you learn something through the process. This year’s version is House Bill 1153, which would prohibit octopus farming. I had some constituents contact me about it. While this legislation never reached the floor, I support the bill.

Other high-profile bills

For a list of good and bad bills from the perspective of House Republicans, please visit this webpage below. This is not an exhaustive list and perhaps you disagree with some of the assessments. However, it is a good snapshot of some high-profile bills considered in the House this year.

Stay connected

Just a reminder there are several ways for you to be involved with the decisions being made in Olympia:


J.T. Wilcox

State Representative J.T. Wilcox, 2nd Legislative District
122A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7912 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000