Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2021 legislative session is under way. While I am pleased we are finally getting to work, I can't help but think of how many families we could have already helped had the governor called us into a special session last year. House Republicans asked him to do so on numerous occasions, but he rebuffed us, opting instead to rule by executive order.
However misguided I think the governor's decisions have been, it's time to focus on the task at hand, which is delivering results for you and your family. House Republican priorities this session are as follows:
Safely getting Washingtonians back to work, school, and a more normal life
The state's lack of a multifaceted response to the pandemic has left parts of our economy devastated and people feeling hopeless. Time will reveal the extent to which shutdown orders exacerbated problems related to mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, foster care, domestic violence, and students falling behind academically. We are bringing these forgotten voices and this larger context of public health to the legislative arena this session.
We have proposals on the table to immediately deploy new federal funding, provide unemployment insurance tax relief, issue a credit for businesses on their B&O tax liability, tap the state's rainy-day fund to deliver a one-time “recovery rebate,” and more.
We are also urging the governor and majority party to find ways to get students back in school. In his response to the governor's inaugural address last week, Rep. Drew Stokesbary said it best:
“If education is the state's paramount duty, how can we stand idle witness to a generation of students being sentenced to delayed cognitive development, stunted social-emotional growth … and a potentially permanent gap between the academic achievement of wealthy and poor children?”
Standing up for Washington families by opposing tax increases and working to make life more affordable
As families and employers attempt to recover financially, the last thing the Legislature should do is ask for more from them. Unfortunately, the governor is pushing hard for regressive tax increases — including proposals that would make health care, gasoline and home energy more expensive. He is also asking for the Legislature to approve an income tax on capital gains. Such a tax would crush small business owners, hurt those planning for retirement, and take away one of Washington's key competitive advantages. We will be fighting against these proposals and reminding the majority that Washingtonians have historically been and continue to be deeply opposed to tax increases.
Holding government accountable for mismanagement at all levels, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
The Employment Security Department's (ESD) problems, including the failure to prevent massive fraud and inability to deliver unemployment benefits, are unacceptable. Soon after the $600 million fraud was uncovered, House Republicans called for an audit of ESD. When the state auditor launched an investigation, she faced interference from ESD management.
When state agencies fail to live up to the standard that's required to effectively serve Washingtonians, action must be taken. In order to restore your trust, House Republicans will be calling on the majority to work with us to implement new reforms that aim to increase accountability and improve outcomes.
Another failure that's currently ongoing is the slow pace of our state's coronavirus vaccine rollout. Whether you receive the vaccination or not is up to you, but those who want it should be able to receive it immediately. I conveyed that message to the governor in a recent meeting, and was glad to see him launch a revamped approach to distribution yesterday. I'm hopeful that will lead to better results.
Protecting our communities by fully funding law enforcement, providing vital mental health services, and working to end the homelessness crisis
Chronic homelessness, drug addiction, crime, gang activity, and untreated mental illness have made many of our communities unsafe. Rather than addressing the root causes of these problems and making difficult decisions to fix them, Democrats have done the opposite. They've also left our law enforcement professionals without needed support. House Republicans honor and respect those who serve and protect our communities and oppose all efforts to defund the police. With a focus on compassion, enforcement, and accountability, we will work to keep our streets, neighborhoods, and families safe.
Reining in the governor's unilateral emergency powers
My ten years in the Legislature have taught me the importance of the three constitutional branches of government. The power to create laws belongs to the Legislature and the people. However, to grapple with time-sensitive emergency situations, the Legislature has granted a portion of its lawmaking power to the governor. Even so, that power must have limits. Washingtonians should not be ruled by proclamations and executive orders for months on end. We must ensure the representatives of the people, both in the Legislature and in their local governments, are not shut out of the process. We'll continue making that clear to the governor.
Staying engaged this session
I hope you'll stand with us this session as we work to deliver results for you and your family. I encourage you to stay engaged in the legislative process by following us on Twitter and Facebook, frequently visiting The Ledger, and utilizing the resources listed in this document. Finally, please bookmark my legislative website, where you can find my latest press releases, video updates, interviews, and more.
It is an honor to serve you.