Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you have enjoyed the summer and have been able to spend time with friends and family. As the summer begins to draw to a close and the chill of the fall air becomes more frequent, I wanted to take a few moments to discuss issues we've been working on of interest to the 14th Legislative District.
Reforming the new police reform laws
During the 2021 legislative session, a group of bills passed, despite Republican opposition as we are the minority party. These measures represent some of the most extensive experiments in police reform in the nation. Two bills in particular that took effect July 25 are especially concerning.
Under the new laws, there must be “probable cause” rather than “reasonable suspicion” to pursue and detain a suspect, making it more difficult for officers to make necessary arrests. Also, officers must exhaust all alternatives to use of force before resorting to force in any situation, and they are required to “use the least amount of physical force necessary to overcome resistance under the circumstances.”
These policies eliminate many de-escalation methods currently approved and in use around the nation and will make it much more complicated – and in some cases, impossible – for law enforcement to respond to reports of criminal behavior.
Since it took effect, there have been numerous instances in which law enforcement officers have been prohibited from using any forcible actions to stop a suspected criminal:
- Man jumps onto cop car, allegedly hits officer who was following police reform rules (KEPR TV)
- Trying to follow new state laws, WSP shut down I-82 Sunday rather than remove woman from roadway (NCW Life Channel)
- Lower Columbia SWAT team arrests man after three-hour standoff with nonlethal weapons barred by new state law (The Daily News)
- Pierce County deputies call off search for murder suspect, site new reform laws (KING 5 News)
- OPINION: Legislative Democrats' attempts at police reform puts communities at risk (The Seattle Times)
A recent report by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs shows crimes increased overall in 2020. The report also notes Washington is ranked 51st out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand people. It's very concerning that these laws are taking effect when crime is up, and there are fewer officers to uphold public safety. The new laws have also prompted some outstanding and dedicated law enforcement officers to resign, retire or look for employment in another career. Read the KIT Radio report.
HB 1310 can be especially difficult in cases involving drug or mental health crisis issues when the individual's behavior is often unpredictable, hostile, and sometimes violent. It's especially troublesome, considering the recent state Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the state's law against simple possession of controlled substances (drugs). Read about some of those difficulties here.
As the ranking Republican on the House Public Safety Committee, we worked hard to stop these bad bills. When it became apparent we did not have enough votes to prevent these measures from moving forward, I worked to amend and minimize the damage they would cause to our law enforcement officers and public safety. For example, the original legislation would have prohibited the use of trained K-9 dogs across Washington state, which officers use as an alternate method to help find and detain a suspect, de-escalate a situation, or prevent the necessity of deadly force. We were able to remove those provisions through the amendatory process. However, many parts of these new laws are still very troublesome and need immediate fixes.
That's why Republican leaders have asked the governor to call a special session so that we can restore public safety in our communities. In the meantime, I'm working within the House Public Safety Committee for bipartisan solutions that would help to reform these new laws. In addition, I will be meeting with our local law enforcement agencies in communities across the 14th Legislative District to hear more about their concerns and ideas that will help bring us all together for a safer Washington.
Vaccination mandates counterproductive, will lead to labor shortages
I share the concerns of those who have contacted my office regarding Gov. Inslee's most recent mandates. As you may know, he has ordered public school teachers, K-12 staff and administrators, employees working in higher education, health care workers, most childcare and early learning, and most state employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. No one should lose their job and income because they make the personal health-care choice not to get vaccinated.
I have family members and friends who have been sick with COVID-19 and the Delta variant. I recognize the seriousness of this virus. However, I do not support the governor's vaccine mandates, which are among the strictest in the nation. I think threatening to fire people who don't comply with orders is counterproductive and wrong.
It's challenging right now to find employees. Look around, and you will see many “help wanted” signs in our communities in the district, around the state, and across the nation. I am concerned these mandates will lead to further labor shortages across the state at a time when we need health care workers, teachers, firefighters, and those in public safety the most. While employees will be able to apply for religious or medical exemptions, it is also concerning that a recent investigative report found the governor's office sought to make the religious exemption “as narrow as possible.”
Lots of people are worried, feeling vulnerable, and uncertain about the future. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of vaccination mandates, I would encourage all of us to be respectful and kind to each other. Being kind is never a bad idea. Being extra kind and respectful as people decide whether or not to get vaccinated is good for all of us.
Unfortunately, the governor issues these mandates by himself under his emergency powers — which we repeatedly tried to address and amend during the 2021 session. State lawmakers should have a role in these decisions, but we have been left out. This is another reason why our legislative leaders are calling for a special session.
We can and should do better. If you would like more information on the Republican response to the mandates and an update on COVID-19 resources, please go here.
Payroll tax to fund state long-term care a flawed program
When House Bill 1087, creating the nation's first public state-operated long-term care insurance program, came up for a vote, I joined my Republican colleagues in voting against it upon final passage on April 23, 2019. Nevertheless, majority lawmakers in Olympia pushed this bill through and then suddenly became very quiet about it. However, now that this legislation is soon to take effect, more and more people are joining us in our concerns.
This measure implements a mandatory payroll tax starting Jan. 1, 2022, of $0.58 per $100 in earnings. That's about $435 a year for someone making $75,000. Employees, not their employers, will pay the tax, and it's not optional. The money from the tax goes to pay for the WA Cares Fund, a first-in-the-nation program that will initially provide eligible workers a maximum of $36,500 in long-term care benefits, beginning in 2025.
I wanted this measure to have a referendum clause attached when it passed so the citizens of Washington could have a final say of whether or not they wanted a new payroll tax. Unfortunately, it did not go back to the people, and many citizens are just now learning of this tax.
I am concerned about the flaws in this program that would force you to pay the tax but provide no benefits — in other words, taxation without representation. For example:
- If you work in Washington but live in Oregon, you will pay the tax but not receive the benefit. We have plenty of people who live on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge and cross the river in Washington to work. This benefit is only for those who LIVE in Washington. I believe that is wholly unfair.
- If you live and work in Washington but move to another state, you will lose whatever you've paid into the system.
- Also, if you retire within the next 10 years, you will not receive a benefit for the taxes you've paid because you must work 500 hours per year for 10 years to qualify.
There is a one-time opt-out provision for anyone who obtains a qualified private long-term care insurance plan before Nov. 1. However, many Washington workers this summer have applied for private long-term care insurance, which has overloaded insurance companies.
Ten companies are currently licensed to sell stand-alone long-term care policies in Washington and another 22 companies are approved to sell long-term care “riders” on life insurance policies. However, because of the onslaught of applications as people try to avoid the payroll tax, many, if not all, companies have suspended sales in Washington. Also, private long-term care insurance can be expensive — as much as $1,000 a year or more.
My House Republican colleagues and I are receiving many inquiries about this issue, so we have created a web page to help answer some of your questions. I also encourage you to contact my office with your questions, concerns, and comments.
Working for you throughout the year
I work for you year-round, even when the Legislature is not in session. This is the time of year when we are especially soliciting ideas for potential legislation in the 2022 session — some of the best ones come from the citizens I serve. I am also open to budget proviso requests right now. Please call, email or write my office with your ideas/requests, or if you have any questions, concerns, or comments about legislation and state government.
You can also keep up on current events through these websites:
- The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy, and the legislative process. It is updated frequently.
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans sent out every week during the legislative session and every month during the interim.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you and the citizens of the 14th Legislative District!
Honored to serve you,