Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Less than 22 days remain of the 105-day session, scheduled to finish April 25. To date, 581 bills have been introduced in the House and of those, 220 have been passed and sent to the Senate. In the Senate, 497 bills have been introduced. Of those, 204 have passed the Senate and have been sent to the House.
Friday, March 26, was opposite house policy committee cutoff. Yesterday, April 2, was opposite house fiscal committee cutoff. Senate bills that have not passed out of their respective House committees by now most likely will have to wait until next year. House bills not passed out of their respective Senate committees also meet the same fate. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from the cutoffs.
We now begin holding virtual floor sessions all day long, sometimes into the evenings, and like today, even on the weekends, until the end of session.
Washington state has three budgets: operating, transportation and the capital budget. The biennial operating budget pays for most day-to-day operations of state government. The transportation budget pays for roads, public transit, and related investments. The capital budget supports construction, acquisition and maintenance of public schools, higher education facilities, state buildings, public lands, parks and other assets.
The current fiscal cycle ends June 30. We need to write and pass new budgets before the Legislature adjourns on April 25 to fund these operations for the next two years.
Operating budget proposals
In February, my House Republican colleagues released a 2021-23 operating budget framework that would fund priorities for working families, growing students, vulnerable populations, small businesses and all Washingtonians — with NO cuts to vital services and NO new taxes. Normally, the minority party doesn't write budgets, but we did so, to show that it could be done responsibly without asking citizens and businesses for more of their tax dollars, especially as many people are hurting during the pandemic shutdowns.
Last week, Democrats in the House and Senate both unveiled their individual operating budget proposals. My concern is these proposals would grow state spending by $6.4 billion, an increase of 12.4% over the 2019-21 budget cycle. That's a 70% spending increase since the governor took office in 2013. This level of spending is unsustainable and could lead to future calls for tax increases.
Nearly $500 million of spending from a new capital gains tax is also built into these budget proposals. Let's remember that Washington voters have rejected an income tax 10 times. The IRS says a capital gains tax is an income tax, so the proposal is likely unconstitutional in Washington state.
The majority party also passed two bills from the House Finance Committee on Wednesday that could lead to tax increases. House Joint Resolution 4204 would seek a constitutional amendment to add an income tax. House Bill 1406 would create a wealth income tax that at some point could be lowered to affect all Washingtonians.
I oppose new and increased taxes. They are completely unnecessary in this coming budget cycle. A revenue forecast on March 17 revealed that Washington will be taking in an additional $3.2 billion over the next four years without raising additional taxes. Also, the state is expected to receive nearly $12 billion in federal COVID stimulus funds. The state doesn't need to take more of our taxpayers' hard-earned money. There is plenty of funding to meet the state's needs and priorities without a tax increase.
We spent hours today during this Easter weekend on the virtual House floor debating the operating budget proposal. Republicans offered a dozen amendments. Five were adopted, but the others were rejected, including the one that would have removed the capital gains tax from the budget plan. The final budget passed, 57-41.
The House transportation budget would spend just over $10.9 billion for the 2021-23 budget cycle. Much of the spending continues the highway projects started under the Connecting Washington program enacted by the Legislature in 2015, including widening of I-90 Snoqualmie Pass to Easton and continued efforts related to replacing the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River between Vancouver and Portland. We passed the bill yesterday with a vote of 87-11. I voted yes.
Capital construction budget
A bipartisan House capital construction proposal includes more than $5.5 billion for statewide construction, repair of buildings, parks, infrastructure, and other projects in our communities.
For the 14th District, just under $38 million is provided for local projects, including renovation of the American Legion building in Goldendale, a project at Maryhill Park, expansion of the Children's Village Neurodevelopment Center in Yakima, and funding for the White Salmon community pool project, along with many other projects.
The capital budget measure, House Bill 1080, passed the House unanimously yesterday.
Real solutions to address the Supreme Court Blake ruling
On Feb. 25, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in State of Washington v. Shannon Blake that the state's drug possession law is unconstitutional since it punished violators regardless of whether they knew they were in possession of controlled substances or not.
Based on the decision, people under the age of 18 can be ticketed for possessing tobacco, and if they are under 21, can be imprisoned for possessing alcohol. However, possessing controlled substances, such as methamphetamine, heroin or fentanyl, regardless of age, is now legal. That's just wrong!
As ranking Republican on the House Public Safety Committee, I took the lead in working to address this issue in the Legislature. On March 23, I joined with other Republicans on the committee to introduce the following bills:
- House Bill 1558 would promote recovery and improve public safety by providing behavioral health system responses to individuals with substance use disorder and providing training to law enforcement personnel.
- House Bill 1559 would provide a behavioral health response to juveniles consuming controlled substances.
- House Bill 1560 would consider the mental state element of a person's intention to knowingly commit a crime (mens rea) involving offenses related to possession of substances.
- House Bill 1561 would expand offenses and penalties for manufacture, sale, distribution, and other conduct involving controlled substances and counterfeit substances.
- House Bill 1562 would allow local governments to enact laws and ordinances relating to possession of controlled substances and counterfeit substances.
Our legislation gets to the heart of the issue. It aims to reduce the devastating fallout of drugs and their effects on our local communities, while helping those most in need.
Read more about this issue:
- House Republican information page
- Listen to my interview on KTTH Radio, Seattle
- Listen to my interview on KIHR Radio, Hood River
- Watch my video – Capital gains tax, update on State V. Blake drug bills
Mosbrucker bills await Senate vote
Three of my bills passed the House and have been moving through the Senate. They include:
- House Bill 1315 – This measure would create a joint legislative task force to identify the role of the workplace in helping to curb domestic violence. This is the same measure I introduced last year, which passed the Legislature. However, it became one of the 147 bills Gov. Inslee vetoed to save money to address the COVID-19 crisis. This bill passed the Senate unanimously today and will soon be heading to the governor. Read more about this bill from my press release.
- House Bill 1455 – This bill would prohibit the Employment Security Department and Labor and Industries from requiring and using full Social Security numbers from citizens who need their services. This bill is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. For more details about this measure, scroll down and read “Data breach in State Auditor's office.”
- The third measure, House Bill 1357, would require voters' pamphlets to be provided upon request to registered Washington voters living and working overseas. A public hearing was held March 17 in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee. The bill was scheduled for a vote, but no action was taken. I discovered from the committee chair that the language of my bill was consolidated into another similar measure, House Bill 1453, which is now in the Senate Rules Committee.
- I never give up on my bills that have not advanced. A fourth measure I authored, House Bill 1354, would bring experts together to review every suicide in Washington involving young people up to the age of 24. The measure passed from the House Children, Youth and Families Committee, but failed to come out of the House Appropriations Committee by cutoff. In its place, I am preparing a budget proviso of $1.5 million that requires the Department of Health to establish this youth suicide review team and report findings by June 1, 2023.
Protecting your constitutional rights
As your state representative, I am sworn to uphold both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the state of Washington. On Sunday, a bill came to the House floor that my Republican colleagues and I believe is unconstitutional.
Senate Bill 5038 would prohibit the open carry of firearms and other weapons, including knives, within 250 feet of permitted events, including the state Capitol. For five hours, Republicans argued the bill is ambiguous, not clearly defining exactly the 250-feet boundaries, meaning that anyone walking peacefully near a permitted event with a holstered gun, knife or other weapon could be charged with a gross misdemeanor crime.
We offered 16 amendments to uphold constitutional rights and reduce the impact of the bill. I closed debate, discussing the need to carry for protection, and how this bill would make Washington less safe. Unfortunately, the measure passed 57-40, with all Republicans voting no. It returns to the Senate for further consideration.
Virtual town hall
I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who joined me and Rep. Chris Corry on the evening of March 17 for our virtual town hall meeting. We had great participation, many questions, and we enjoyed hearing from you.
Some of the best legislation comes from the people I serve within the 14th District. Hearing from you is important to me as I vote on your behalf. I encourage you to continue calling, writing and/or emailing my office with your questions, comments and suggestions.
Honored to serve you,