Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the governor's vaccination requirement deadline approaches, I am hearing from many citizens, concerned about the mandates and whether they will still have their jobs.
As I noted in my last email update to you, in August, the governor announced vaccination requirements for most state employees, private health care workers, and long-term care workers. He also issued further vaccination requirements for employees working in K-12, most childcare and early learning, and higher education, as well as an expansion of the statewide mask mandate to all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Under these mandates, most employees in Washington must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs.
I share your frustration that the governor has chosen this course of action. Mandating vaccines to our educators and health care workers at the expense of their jobs and income is unnecessary and heavy-handed. This is an individual's personal health care choice.
People are asking me and other lawmakers, “What are you doing about the governor's mandates and emergency powers?”
My House Republican colleagues and I have. . .
- Made emergency powers reform one of our legislative priorities.
- Sponsored legislation, pushed to move it forward, and debated it on the House floor.
- Discussed the issue at several news conferences.
- Advocated for a more open Capitol Campus and inclusive 2021 legislative session.
- Shared news and our views on social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
- Shared news and our views in the Capitol Buzz and The Ledger.
- Featured the issue in member newsletters and email updates (including The Current).
- Produced and shared videos on the issue.
- Participated in radio programs and sent out radio releases.
- Written opinion pieces.
- Met with editorial boards and even won some over.
- Sent letters to the governor.
- Hosted Zoom and telephone town halls.
- Publicly opposed vaccine mandates.
- Called for special sessions.
I can assure you, we in the minority party have done everything legally possible to rein in the governor's emergency powers and restore common-sense solutions to the challenges presented by this pandemic.
We have three equal, but separate branches of government, all of which should have an equal say in these matters. Unfortunately, millions of Washington citizens have had no voice in state government as Gov. Inslee has shut out legislators from around the state and prevented us from weighing on key issues that impact us all.
While we have exhausted many of the options available to us as the minority party, our work on this important issue continues. Your help is needed now more than ever. The people must make their voices made known loud and clear. I urge you to contact the governor here, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) here. You can contact the Washington State Speaker of the House, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, here. And Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig here.
I will continue working hard on your behalf. However, I need your help. If you're tired of one-person rule in our state and you want to ensure your state elected officials are not shut out, I urge you to contact the individuals I've listed above, especially the governor, who needs to be made aware of how many of you are worried, concerned or frustrated with his decisions and how they impact you and your family.
You can read more here about our actions to rein in the governor's emergency powers.
Reforming the new police reform laws
During the past two weeks, I've held virtual meetings and safe in-person meetings with law enforcement officials across the 14th District, listening to their concerns about the extreme police reform laws that took effect in July and seeking their input.
They've told me these new laws have often tied their hands when it comes to doing their jobs and ensuring public safety. We hear that criminals are taking advantage of the ability to commit crimes and walk away. Crime is up in our state and many of our law enforcement officers are frustrated that the new laws hold them more accountable for their actions to protect public safety than the accountability of the criminals.
A vast majority of police officers are hard-working, dedicated, honorable professionals. I also agree if an officer does not act in a way consistent with professional law enforcement expectations, he or she should be held accountable. Officers should be held to an exceedingly high standard, but not an impossible one.
As the ranking Republican on the House Public Safety Committee, I've been working with other legislators on that committee to draft new legislation for the coming 2022 legislative session that begins in January. Our goal is to restore tools to law enforcement officers that are necessary for them to preserve public safety.
For more background about these new laws and the concerns surrounding them, I recently wrote an opinion editorial that was published in several of our local papers, including The Columbian, The Goldendale Sentinel, and the Skamania County Pioneer. I also recently discussed the issue on a radio talk program hosted by Centralia Rep. Peter Abbarno. I welcome your comments as we review the best way to keep Washington safe.
Long-term care payroll tax
In my last email update, I discussed the new long-term care payroll tax, the WA Cares Fund. When the tax kicks in on Jan. 1, 2022, employees in Washington state will see 58 cents per $100 come out of their paychecks unless they have purchased a qualified long-term care insurance plan before Nov. 1, 2021, to opt-out.
Unfortunately, if you have not opted out by now, it will be very difficult to do so. This is a Sept. 13 article in the Washington State Wire:
“The Office of the Insurance Commissioner stated that one company received 66,000 applications for long-term care insurance ahead of the Nov. 1 opt-out deadline, according to KUOW. Last year, the same company only sold 8,000 policies. This rush has overloaded insurance companies, and led many to stop selling policies.”
I am concerned about the flaws in this program that would force you to pay the tax but provide no benefits. 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. 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 strong push in both the House and Senate to make changes to this program.
I also feel that with such a significant tax, this issue should have been sent to the citizens of Washington to have their say. Instead, many people are just learning about this payroll tax.
A bipartisan group of state senators recently sent a letter to the governor asking him to suspend the new tax. It doesn't appear he will do so.
We plan on taking action through legislation to make changes to the program. Whatever changes can be made will likely have to wait until the legislative session begins in January. Unfortunately, that's after the tax kicks in on Jan. 1.
For more information on this issue, check out this webpage, which includes frequently asked questions. It will be updated when more information becomes available, including legislation we are proposing related to the program.
Redistricting Commission redrawing Washington's legislative, congressional maps
Every 10 years, after the federal government publishes updated census information, Washington redraws the boundaries of its congressional and state legislative electoral districts to ensure that each district represents an equal number of residents. Those efforts are now in progress.
The four members of the Washington State Redistricting Commission — two Democrats and two Republicans — recently submitted their first draft of legislative maps. You can find these maps and commissioner statements on this web page. Draft congressional district maps have also been released.
At least three of the commission members are supposed to agree on a final plan by Nov. 15. If they can't agree, the final decision will be left to the state Supreme Court.
To learn more about how you can be involved, click here.
Stay in touch!
If you have any questions about the issues in this email update or other state government-related matters, please contact my office. I appreciate your feedback, questions, and concerns. My contact information is below.
Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve and represent you and the 14th Legislative District.
Honored to serve you,