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Friends and Neighbors,
State lawmakers have reached their first two deadlines of the 2023 legislative session. Last Friday was policy committee cutoff. Today was fiscal committee cutoff. That means bills in their house of origin needed to pass out of their respective policy and fiscal committees or they are considered “dead” for the legislative session, with some exceptions. These deadlines help state lawmakers and those involved in the legislative process focus their work and eliminate many bills from further consideration.
Our next deadline is house of origin cutoff on March 8. We can expect a lot of House floor action leading up to this day. You can find the 2023 Session Cutoff Calendar here.
I have had a busy two weeks since my last email update, including opportunities to testify on bills I am prime sponsoring. Chairs of committees are not obligated to schedule public hearings on any legislation, so I am grateful that my bills were brought forward for consideration. Below you will find links that take you to videos of me testifying as well as more information on my bills. You can find all of the bills I am sponsoring or co-sponsoring here.
- Watch | House Bill 1482 would allow people to continue to qualify for the senior and disabled veterans property tax exemption if their incomes are increased as the result of cost of living adjustments to various benefit programs. Status: Amended into House Bill 1355, which advanced out of the House Finance Committee.
- Watch | House Bill 1702 would impose a local sales tax wholly credited against the state sales tax to support programs for senior citizens. Please note: This would not result in a tax increase for anyone. Status: Died in the House Local Government Committee.
- Watch | House Joint Memorial 4001 would request that the Washington State Transportation Commission commence proceedings to designate a section of I-5 in Cowlitz County as the “Cowlitz County Deputy Sheriff Justin DeRosier Memorial Highway.” Status: Passed the House Transportation Committee.
- Watch | House Bill 1485 would allow emergency tow trucks at the scene of an accident to use rear-facing blue lights in addition to an intermittent or revolving red light and allow emergency tow trucks to operate an intermittent or revolving red light when reentering the roadway from the scene of an emergency or accident. Status: Passed the House Transportation Committee.
- Watch | House Bill 1488 would create the Working Forests special license plate and direct proceeds to the Washington tree farm program to support small forest landowners. Status: Passed the House Transportation Committee.
- House Bill 1489 would create the Mount St. Helens special license plates. Status: Passed the House Transportation Committee.
- House Bill 1491 would prohibit an employer from searching an employee's vehicle in the employer's parking areas. Status: Passed the House Labor & Workplace Standards and Appropriations Committees.
- House Bill 1740 concerns the eligibility, enrollment and compensation of small forestland owners volunteering for participation in the forestry riparian easement program. Status: Passed the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.
When state lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday, it will be day 50 of the 105-day legislative session. In this time, the priorities of the majority and minority parties have come into focus. You can learn more about House Republican priorities here.
Broad-based tax relief
I am disappointed that Democrats, again, do not appear to be interested in talking about or ultimately providing meaningful, broad-based tax relief to struggling Washingtonians — despite state tax collections remaining strong. I have proposed both property tax relief (House Bill 1483) and sales tax relief (House Bill 1704) legislation, but neither measure could even receive a public hearing. We can and must do more for those who are facing high inflation and other economic challenges. Instead, the majority party on the House Finance Committee passed House Bill 1670, which would allow local governments to raise property taxes by up to 3% each year rather than the 1% limit voters approved via I-747 in 2001. You can learn more in this recent story.
Emergency powers reform
It also appears the majority party has no interest in emergency powers reform, despite bipartisan support for legislation last year. House Bill 1535, which would restore balance and trust in state government, could not even receive a public hearing this year. Everyone agrees that our governor should have the authority to respond in emergencies, but there should be limits on this power. State lawmakers and the voices of their constituents should play a greater role in the policies considered and enacted during prolonged emergencies.
It is also clear Democrats are fractured when it comes to policies relating to public safety. Two years ago, legislation was passed that took important tools away from law enforcement — including limiting their options for vehicular pursuits. Since then, many suspects have simply driven away and police officers can't do anything about it. Law enforcement believes this has led to an increase in crime, particularly auto thefts.
Some in the majority party understand mistakes were made and are willing to fix them. Others do not want to change the policies put in place two years ago. Bipartisan House Bill 1363, which would restore some options for law enforcement regarding vehicular pursuits, did pass out of its policy committee last week. That's the good news. The bad news: It was narrowed down and would expire in July 2025. This new, amended version passed out of the House Transportation Committee yesterday. I voted for the bill because I wanted it to advance and the work to continue to restore law enforcement's ability to apprehend and hold accountable those endangering the community.
A look ahead
While I am disappointed with some outcomes of the legislative session, I am also optimistic. First, it's important to remember that a vast majority of bills that pass the Legislature do so with broad bipartisan or unanimous support. You don't often hear about this legislation, but not every bill is contentious, and legislators are working together when and where we find agreement.
Second, there is bipartisan collaboration on housing, mental health, substance abuse and our state drug possession laws. A lot of work remains to be done in the last half of the legislative session, but I believe both the majority and minority parties will contribute to the changes in policies relating to these critical issues. And that's good for our state.
Finally, the budget development process for transportation and capital budgets in the House continues to be bipartisan and collaborative. The other state spending plan, the operating budget, is usually more partisan. However, House Republicans will again put forward a framework for consideration on this budget, including priorities. We believe it is important to provide ideas for our state's largest budget. We are still about a month away from the next revenue forecast and first operating budget proposal being released.
Thank you, pages
In closing, I just want to thank the four students who I have sponsored as pages in the Washington State House of Representatives over the last seven weeks. I appreciate their hard work and interest in their Legislature. Covid-related restrictions prevented the page programs from operating for the last two years. It's great that we are back to normal and young people can experience the legislative process.
- Messina Occhino, Chehalis Middle School | January 16-20
- Codi Becker, WF West High School | January 23-27
- Ian Hudson, Centralia High School | January 30 – February 3
- Layla Laufmann, Toutle Lake High School | February 13-17
Learn more here:
Staying in touch
As always, I welcome you to contact me if you ever have any questions, concerns or comments regarding legislation or interactions with state agencies. Though I have received a huge number of emails from outside the district, I am sorting through them to be sure I am reading those from my constituents, so please forward your thoughts to me.
408 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7990 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000