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Friends and Neighbors,
Due to election-year restrictions, it has been a long time since I wrote to you last. Ethics laws and House rules limit my legislative communications from mid-May through the election and for a short time thereafter in each even-numbered year. Now that we are beyond the restriction period, I am reconnecting with you to help assure you can be a part of the legislative process.
2021 legislative session begins
The 105-day legislative session officially began on Monday with opening ceremonies in the Washington State House of Representatives. Normally on opening day, the chamber is filled with family, friends, and constituents from across the state, but this year was much different. Only state representatives and a limited number of House staff could participate due to coronavirus protocols. Members and staff in attendance had to get temperature checks, wear N-95 face masks, and social distance — then members voted in small groups on the House floor. The Capitol also had unprecedented security, at the request of Governor Inslee, which also gave the day a somber feeling rather than the excitement felt in the past.
January 11 may be the only day of the 2021 legislative session in which all state lawmakers will be in Olympia, in person, to conduct business. The Washington State Legislature will primary operate remotely. This means House floor action and committee hearings will be conducted via Zoom and other electronic platforms, with proceedings also being broadcast on TVW. Only 15 members from each House caucus and a handful of staff will be allowed on the Capitol Campus. Unfortunately, the majority party and local health department have closed buildings to the public.
While I acknowledge the benefits of social distancing, wearing masks, and preventing the spread of the disease, I believe the House — as an institution — could have come up with an operating plan that offered more openness and transparency for Washingtonians. This is why I joined my House Republican colleagues in voting against the temporary rules which still passed on the first day of the legislative session — and, why I have spent a great deal of time offering ideas on how to keep operations as open as possible.
How you can participate in the legislative process
While the House operations plan is disappointing, and as much as I would like for constituents to be allowed on the Capitol Campus with legislators — there to receive your thoughts and to represent you and our communities — there are still some ways for you to be a part of the legislative process. In an attempt to compensate for no in-person meetings, there are greater opportunities for remote testimony that have not been offered in the past. Here are some resources you can use to help assure your voice is heard:
- Accessing the Legislature remotely
- Participating in committee hearings
- Washington State Legislature
- How to comment on a bill
- Committee schedules, agendas, and documents
- The Ledger | A legislative news aggregator
My roles and committees
I will continue to serve on the same House committees as last year: Finance, for which I am the ranking member; Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Transportation. I will also continue my role on the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC), Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC), and Joint Transportation Committee (JTC). I am honored to serve on these committees to give our district a stronger voice in the legislative process throughout the year.
New tax/tax-increase proposals
New taxes/tax-increase proposals are being put forward by the governor and majority party, including a capital gains income tax, and these will be heard in the House Finance Committee. As you know, I have opposed and fought against tax increases for many years — and plan to continue to stand up for the taxpayers of our state. The Finance committee could, and should, be used as a means to provide tax relief — especially property tax relief for homeowners and employers. However, it is constantly used to push out tax increases — pulling more money from your wallets.
Instead of providing the tax and fee relief voters demanded by initiative with $30 car tab votes, the House Transportation Committee will be seeing proposals to increase gas tax and fees highlighted in this piece in The Seattle Times. I will keep you updated.
As in years past, I plan to send these email updates out every other Friday during the legislative session, but I wanted to get this one out early because it contains so much information on how you can be involved in the legislative process. In future editions, I will talk more about my legislative priorities and what proposals are emerging from the majority party. Keep an eye on your inbox for these updates on what's happening during session. Thank you for reading.
An important part of my job is listening to you. I welcome your thoughts and concerns regarding issues before us or with which you need assistance. With limits on use of facilities at the Capitol, e-mails will be the quickest and most effective way to reach me. I will read them quickly to assure your voice is heard, then respond as soon as possible. I look forward to hearing from you.
408 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7990 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000