Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With just one week left in the 2023 legislative session, critical policies and state budgets still need to be finalized. While there was no House or Senate floor action over the weekend, budget writers and small groups of state lawmakers were considering big proposals. I thought this would be a good time to update you on some issues and discuss what to expect moving forward.
First, a return to in-person legislating has made a huge difference. The two-year, largely remote experience produced some bad results, including policies we are attempting to fix this year, and limited public interaction with state lawmakers. It’s been great to see engaged citizens at committee hearings, in the galleries, on the Capitol steps, and in my office.
Second, there has been great bipartisan work on workforce issues, wildfire response, salmon recovery, and housing — although momentum on housing has slowed down over the last few weeks. There has also been collaboration on the transportation and capital budgets, with differences often between the chambers, not the parties, and the Legislature pushing back on the governor. I’m hoping the final versions of these budgets reflect this assessment.
The operating budget is a different story, with the House Democrats’ proposal a partisan effort and insufficient in the areas of special education funding and helping our students recover from learning loss. I voted against it. The Senate version had bipartisan input and, therefore, Republican votes. Differences on these proposals are being worked out now. I’ll have more to share in my next email update.
Below is an update on issues that have been in the headlines recently.
Just before midnight last Monday, House Democrats finally brought vehicular pursuit legislation to the floor. As you may know, restoring law enforcement’s ability to pursue suspected criminals has been a priority for Republicans since this experiment was enacted in the summer of 2021. There is no doubt in my mind that policies passed in the 2021 legislative session have made our communities less safe.
Unfortunately, a watered-down version of the legislation — Senate Bill 5352 — is what passed the House and Senate. House Republicans, along with 20 House Democrats, supported a stronger solution — House Bill 1363. Democratic leadership would not allow it to move forward.
While Senate Bill 5352 would lower the evidentiary threshold required for engaging in vehicular pursuits for some offenses, police officers would still be unable to engage in vehicular pursuits for crimes such as auto theft, residential burglary, stalking, reckless and aggressive driving, and others. This letter outlines the other offenses.
I voted “no” on the legislation to send the message that it is not enough. Our communities want more. The debate will continue, and we will not stop until law enforcement has the support and tools it needs to keep our communities safe.
Part of my role as House Republican leader is to engage with the media. I went on the Dave Ross show the following morning after the debate to provide his listeners with an update. I also sat down for an interview with KING TV in my office. We also discussed the issue at our Republican media availability last Tuesday. The media has been all over this issue for the last two years.
- WA Legislature backs compromise bill on police pursuits | The Seattle Times
- Washington House passes bill allowing police pursuits under limited circumstances | The Center Square
Drug use, possession and treatment
Since the state Supreme Court Blake decision in 2021, which essentially decriminalized hard drugs, our drug use, possession and treatment laws have been in disarray. This has resulted in tragic consequences and a drug crisis. In fact, the Department of Health just launched a new opioid and drug overdose dashboard.
Three of the four caucuses, including House Republicans, supported the Blake “fix” that passed the Senate on March 3. Senate Bill 5536 also had support from law enforcement and treatment providers. Unfortunately, House Democrats went their own way and amended the legislation.
The version that passed the House late last Tuesday night was described by our House Republican lead on public safety, Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, as not truly addressing the heart of the issue and helping those fighting addiction. I agree with Gina and voted against the bill. We can do better, starting with making possession of hard drugs a gross misdemeanor. This bill still has a long way to go and House Republicans will be at the table. It will be one of the biggest storylines in this last week.
- House passes ‘Blake’ bill to enshrine drug possession as misdemeanor | The Everett Herald
- WA House passes bill to make drug possession a misdemeanor | Crosscut
A terrible bill that would erode parental rights passed on a party-line vote late last Wednesday night. By the way, are you sensing a theme here? House Democrats often bring out their most controversial bills late at night. Since I’m not allowed to impugn the motives of other state lawmakers in my legislative communications, I’ll leave it at that and let you infer what you will.
Senate Bill 5599 is a measure that House Republicans have received a lot of emails and calls about this year. Our view is this: Parents providing a safe home have the right to know where their children are. I discussed this issue in my video update on Friday.
- Legislation focused on safeguarding runaway youth seeking protected health services clears state House | KING TV
- Minors seeking gender-affirming treatment can shelter without parent’s knowledge if bill passes | MyNorthwest
Advisory votes were established by I-960 in 2007. They allow voters to weigh in on the decisions of their state lawmakers on taxes. I have always found the results of advisory votes to be informative.
Senate Bill 5082 would abolish advisory votes and take away the voices of voters on tax issues. I believe it’s important to let voters weigh in on the decisions of their state lawmakers, even if it’s non-binding. Every House Republican opposed this legislation.
I appreciate the media’s coverage on this bill, including our perspectives. You can learn more in the stories below.
- ‘It’s time to end the failed experiment’: Bill to repeal advisory votes heads to Inslee’s desk | The Spokesman-Review
- Prepare for nonbinding tax advisory votes to go away | Axios Seattle
New tax increases
Democrats are again signaling they may pass new tax increases, something they have done several times since 2019. In the last four legislative sessions, they’ve created a new long-term care insurance payroll tax and a new capital gains tax, in addition to other new or increased taxes that make life more expensive for Washingtonians already struggling with high inflation and economic uncertainty.
House Bill 1628, which would increase state and local real estate excise taxes, passed out of the House Finance Committee on Friday. This would increase the cost of multifamily housing and single-family homes. It would also lead to higher rents.
Senate Bill 5770, introduced last week, would raise the limit on increases in state and local property taxes to 3% per year. So potentially tripling the increases in property taxes for some people. With so many individuals and families already struggling to afford property taxes and living paycheck-to-paycheck, this is a bad idea. Our friends in the Senate Republican Caucus created this background information on the legislation.
- WA lawmakers consider tax increases as session nears end | The Seattle Times
- State House committee passes bill to allow for the increase of real estate excise tax | KING TV
I hope it goes without saying, but House Republicans oppose these bills.
While our state faces economic uncertainty, which could impact tax collections, we still have enough money to pay for our priorities. This year, the Legislature should fund these priorities, save as much as possible for the inevitable rainy day, and be fiscally responsible. Now is not the time to pass new tax policies that would not only hurt individuals and families but increase the size and scope of state government.
Staying in touch
In the homestretch of the 2023 legislative session, I welcome your emails, calls and letters. Please feel free to reach out to me.