Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2019 legislative session ended just before midnight, Sunday, April 28, after a weekend of long hours on the House floor (at one point, we were working more than 21 consecutive hours), in which majority Democrats waited until the early morning hours to increase taxes by more than $5.5 billion over the next four years. House Republican Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox described it as “A good day for Democrats and a bad day for taxpayers.”
Even though most policy issues are not partisan, this session was challenging for Republicans because Democrats picked up enough seats in November to have large majorities in both the House and Senate. Led by a Democratic governor, Democrats controlled both the House and Senate. Although we fought hard against tax increases and bad policy bills, Republicans did not have enough votes to stop these measures.
This email update provides a look back at the 105-day session, both disappointments and successes. I welcome your thoughts and comments as you read through this.
14th District Legislative Update meetings scheduled for May 22, 23
It's good to be back in district and meeting once again with the citizens I am honored to serve. My seatmate, Rep. Chris Corry, and I have scheduled a series of Legislative Update meetings this week across the 14th District to provide an upfront, personal review of the 2019 session, and to answer your questions. Here are the dates/times/locations:
Wednesday, May 22
9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
East County Fire and Rescue Station 93
121 N.E. 312th Ave.
12 p.m. – 1 p.m.
Skamania County Hegewald Center
710 S.W. Rock Creek Drive
3 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Lyle Activity Center
WA-14 and 3rd Street
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Quality Inn and Suites
808 E. Simcoe Drive
Thursday, May 23
12 noon – 1 p.m.
5621 Summitview Ave.
Record-spending operating budget comes together with little public input
I serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which decides fiscal matters relating to the state operating budget. So it was disappointing that my fellow Republican colleagues and I were shut out of the budget negotiating process, while majority House and Senate Democrats sat behind closed doors, deciding in private how much of your money they were going to spend.
The process was kept so secret that bills necessary to implement the budget were introduced with only a title, without any of the language needed to enact the bill (known as title-only bills). Language was later added without public input or review.
We, and the public, got our first glimpse of the 808-page budget bill on Saturday, April 27 — day 104 of the 105-day session — just one day before we were to vote on it. At 11:30 p.m., Sunday, April 28, with only 30 minutes to spare before the end of the session, the operating budget bill was brought to the floor for a vote.
During debate, my Republican colleagues expressed concerns I also share about this budget — that it spends too much, saves too little, sets our state up for problems in the next economic downturn, and relies on unnecessary tax increases. You can watch that debate here.
The enacted 2019-21 operating budget that becomes effective July 1, 2019 spends $52.5 billion. That's an increase of $7.8 billion (17.5 percent) over the 2017-19 budget. Even more concerning, the proposal commits every last dollar, ensuring that any economic downturn will require painful cuts. Under this budget, state spending will have increased by $22 billion (70 percent) since 2013. This level of growth is not responsible, nor sustainable, and those are among the reasons I voted no.
Taxes raised to support operating budget spending
To support this budget, majority House and Senate Democrats spent an entire weekend approving massive tax increases — many that were brought out for a vote in the middle of the night, while most of the public was asleep. I voted against these bills.
Bipartisan budget accomplishments
To be fair, there were good things in the operating budget that can be supported by all. Important investments were made in our state's mental health system, opioid crisis, rape kit backlog, $400,000 from a proviso I inserted in the budget for domestic violence prevention, and $865,000 to develop plans to reduce suicide among veterans and their family members (also a budget proviso I was able to secure).
Unlike the operating budget, the state's two other budgets—transportation and capital— had the input of both parties — Republican and Democrat — and passed with bipartisan support.
The transportation budget allocates funding for the development and maintenance of the state's transportation infrastructure, while the capital budget allocates funding for public works projects statewide.
The 2019-21 transportation budget allocates funding for the following 14th District projects:
- $17 million for the SR 14/Bingen underpass.
- $22 million for corridor improvements to SR 14 in Skamania and Clark counties.
- $1.8 million for the Cowiche Canyon Trail.
- $1.1 million for the Bingen Walnut Creek and Maple railroad crossing.
- $1 million for improvements to 72nd and Washington in Yakima.
For a full list of transportation budget projects funded in the 14th, click here and select “14th Legislative District.”
The 2019-21 capital budget allocates just under $50 million for projects in the 14th District, including:
- $22.7 million for the expansion of the west campus of Yakima Valley Community College to facilitate additional instructional and lab space.
- $8 million for floodplain design between from gap to gap in the Yakima area.
- $1 million for the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic Children's Village.
Funding is also made available for the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office training building, improvements to the Goldendale Airport, the Centerville Fire Department and Centerville Grange, the Skamania County Courthouse Plaza, and a memorial in Toppenish to honor missing and murdered indigenous women. For a full list of capital budget projects funded in the 14th, click here and select “14th Legislative District.”
Numerous Mosbrucker bills pass Legislature, gain governor's signature
I'm pleased to report I had astounding success this session moving forward some very important policy bills. In fact, out of the 49 House Republican bills to go to the governor, I had the most prime-sponsored bills — seven — to be signed into law. Here's a quick look at each of them:
- House Bill 1070 – Natural gas tax treatment: This measure synchronizes tax rates, making public utility districts (PUDs) more competitive throughout the marketplace. The bill could be particularly helpful to the renewable gas project at Klickitat PUD because it will ensure the sales of their renewable natural gas receives the same tax treatment, regardless of how it is used.
- House Bill 1436 – Snow bikes: This bill allows owners who have converted their motorcycles into snow bikes to hold concurrent motorcycle/snow bike licenses. Read my press release on this bill.
- House Bill 1486 – Delegation of inspection: This measure will save taxpayer money by allowing inspections of factory-built housing and commercial structures built out of state to be performed by inspectors other than the Department of Labor and Industries.
- House Bill 1532 – Domestic violence traumatic brain injuries: This bill enacts methods to provide information to domestic violence victims about the signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injuries so they can seek help. Read my press release on this bill.
- House Bill 1533 – Domestic violence resources in the workplace: This measure provides information and helpful resources in the workplace for domestic violence survivors. One in three people are survivors of domestic violence. As I began looking into this issue, I discovered that victims go to work, not just to earn a paycheck, but because it is a safe place against their abuser. This legislation allows a poster to be created by the state's Employment Security Department that could be displayed in the workplace with information about where victims can go to get help and who they can call.
- House Bill 1713 – Missing and murdered indigenous people: This bill establishes two liaison positions within the Washington State Patrol (WSP) for the purpose of building relationships between government and native communities. It also requires WSP to develop a best practices protocol for law enforcement response to missing person reports for indigenous women and other indigenous people. Plus, it requires the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs to provide WSP with government-to-government training. Read my press release on this bill. Watch this video for the story behind this legislation.
- House Bill 1919 – Animal abuse: This bill increases penalties for animal abuse, particularly against those who use dogs for blood sport fighting.
Other significant legislation
Although my name is not listed as prime-sponsor, I was deeply involved in the passage of two other significant bills which have been signed into law.
House Bill 1166 – Supporting sexual assault survivors – More than 10,000 untested sexual assault (rape) kits are in police evidence. This bill, which I co-sponsored with Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, seeks to end that backlog. It establishes storage requirements for unreported sexual assault kits, places a temporary moratorium against destroying the kits, and sets deadlines for submitting and testing the kits. Hopefully, this will help to identify and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Senate Bill 5380 – Concerning opioid use – This is the governor's omnibus opioid legislation, which includes language in a bill (House Bill 2447) I authored last year known as “Jeremy's Law.” The bill was named for Jeremy Wolfe, a former high-school state wrestling champion, who became addicted to prescription opioids, and eventually heroin, after suffering a knee injury. Jeremy's Law requires health care practitioners to discuss dependency and overdose risks, as well as provide pain management alternatives to opioids when prescribing them for the first time during the course of a patient's treatment. This becomes effective July 28, 2019.
I work for you throughout the year
Although the Legislature has adjourned the 2019 session, I remain working for you throughout the entire year. It is my honor to provide assistance, whether it be navigating through the labyrinth of state agencies and regulations, or solving a problem with or without legislation. Please feel free to call my office in Olympia anytime you have a question, comment or suggestion about state government or legislation. My contact information is below. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
Honored to serve you,