Friends and Neighbors,
On Tuesday, we reached the midway point of the 60-day legislative session. This day was also fiscal committee cutoff, which means House bills needed pass out of the House Appropriations, Finance, Transportation and Capital Budget committees or they are considered “dead” for the year. The exceptions are bills that are considered necessary to implement the budget – often referred to as “NTIB.”
The last two weeks have been very busy. As a member of both the House Finance and House Transportation committees, I spent a lot of time hearing bills and listening to testimony from the public. We were also on the House floor voting on bills Wednesday through Friday of this week. In addition to our normal Monday through Wednesday floor schedule for next week, the Speaker has planned for us to be voting on bills on Sunday, too.
Low-carbon fuel standard and new B&O tax rate increase
The two major bills already passed by the House this legislative session would increase costs on Washington citizens and employers operating in our state.
Senate Bill 6492, which was fast-tracked through legislative session and already signed by the governor, would increase the B&O tax rate on several additional businesses. It fixes a problem that was created by the passage of House Bill 2158 (which raised B&O taxes on many employers to entitle certain students to state funded, free college tuition) at the end of the 2019 legislative session.
House Bill 1110 would authorize the Department of Ecology to create a clean fuels program, by rule, to reduce the per unit carbon intensity of transportation fuels. I discussed this low-carbon fuel standard in my last email update. The new program would increase the cost of gas, diesel and the products we buy, while doing very little to improve our air quality.
I discussed my opposition to these bills in my video update last week. You can watch it here.
$30 car tabs remain on hold
A King County judge largely upheld I-976 as constitutional on Wednesday. This is a partial win for proponents of the $30 car tab. However, there are still legal questions and it could take months for them to be answered in our court system. That means $30 car tabs remain on hold.
It is clear to me that Washingtonians knew what they were voting for in I-976. I believe state lawmakers should pass legislation this legislative session that honors the will of the voters by implementing $30 car tabs. Legislation has been introduced to do this and I support passage and implementation of $30 car tabs.
As the former ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, I also understand the infrastructure needs of our state and the complexities of writing the state transportation budget. Republicans and Democrats are working in good faith on this budget this year, and I believe they can work out a plan that honors $30 car tabs and still finds ways to fund important transportation projects across our state. A lot of work remains to be done, but I remain hopeful these outcomes can be achieved.
Update on my bills
Here is an update on some of the bills I have prime sponsored:
- House Bill 2085 would create the Mount St. Helens license plate. The revenues for the plate would go to the Mount St. Helens Institute.
- Status: Passed the House Transportation Committee on January 15; could come to the House floor for a vote.
- House Bill 2166 would create the working forests license plate. The revenues for the plate would support the Washington Tree Farm Program.
- Status: Passed the House Transportation Committee on February 10; could come to the House floor for a vote.
- House Bill 2244 would expand the locations where a person is authorized to operate a wheeled all-terrain vehicle on state highways to unincorporated areas in rural locations with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less. Currently this is allowed in cities and towns – just not in our unincorporated communities.
- Status: Passed the House Transportation Committee on February 11; could come to the House floor for a vote.
- House Bill 2860 would update the Washington plane coordinate system so that surveys tie into the appropriate datum, but will not change ownership of any property.
- Status: Passed the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on February 7; could come to the House floor for a vote.
- House Bill 2857 would strengthen the state balanced budget requirement and outlook process by requiring last year's tax increase and its spending to be included in the four-year budget outlook.
- Status: I'm disappointed that this died in the House Appropriations Committee.
- House Bill 2136 would extend the Farm Internship Pilot Project from December 31, 2019 to December 31, 2025. It would also remove the limitation that the pilot may operate only in certain counties.
- Status: Passed the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on January 24, but died in the House Appropriations Committee.
Big issues still under consideration
Several bills and amendments will be considered over the last four weeks of the legislative session. Here are some big issues still under consideration:
- Comprehensive sex education in schools
- Data privacy
- Energy policy
- Property rights
- Three supplemental budgets: operating, transportation, and capital construction
How to comment on a bill
If you are interested in commenting on a House or Senate bill, there's a simple way to do it. This link provides instructions.
Already this year, I have received thousands of e-mails from constituents on dozens of topics – and have replied to many of those I have received. I am reading as many as I can before votes are taken on the numerous bills and I plan to reply as soon as I can. As we enter the homestretch of the legislative session, I welcome your emails, calls and letters. Please don't hesitate to contact me regarding the issues still before us – and any new ones which may emerge.