Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this email finds you well. With the 2024 legislative session less than two months away, I thought it would be a good time to touch base – to share what I have been working on this interim and what to expect as we head into the new year.
Meetings with constituents and groups
Since the special session ended on May 16, I have been busy in our communities – including meetings with constituents and groups in the 20th District. This is an important but enjoyable part of my job as state representative. Here are some of the people and groups I have met with:
- Multiple constituent meetings in Ridgefield.
- New CEO/Superintendent of Arbor Health in Morton.
- Port of Centralia.
- Members of the Centralia City Council.
- Skills educators in Kalama.
- Thurston County Developmental Disability Coalition.
- Thurston Conservation District Projects Tour.
Last Saturday, I also had the opportunity to attend a Gold Star Ceremony and later that evening speak at a VFW and American Legion Veterans Day event in Mossyrock. I am always humbled to be a part of these events. I will say here the sentiment I expressed there: Thank you, Veterans, for the sacrifices you have made to protect our freedoms.
Committee tours and appointments
As part of my legislative committee assignments, I have also taken some important tours around the state this year with my fellow state lawmakers. These tours give me an up-close look at projects and infrastructure and allow me to talk to people on the ground and share ideas. They are always informative and interesting. A lot of time and work goes into planning these tours and I appreciate the stakeholders who coordinate them.
- Harvest Palouse River and Coulee City (PCC) Rail Tour (September 7).
- Joint Transportation Committee Bridge Tour (September 26-28).
- Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee and House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Joint Tour (October 3-4).
- Washington State County Road Administration Board (CRAB) Tour (October 27).
I was also recently appointed to the Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee and the Public Private Partnership (P3) Work Group, among others I have served on for many years. I also helped hire David Reich, our state’s new chief economist and executive director of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. You can learn more in this story.
What I am hearing
An important part of my job is listening. This includes responding to constituents who contact me. While I get contacted on a range of issues, here are a few common themes I have heard over the last six months and where I stand on the issues:
High gas prices
While gas prices in our state have stabilized over the last month or so, they spiked during the summer. At one point, Washington had the highest gas prices in the nation – resulting in many families canceling their vacations.
We know the new cap-and-trade program (also called the Climate Commitment Act), passed by the majority party in 2021 and implemented in January 2023, has caused gas prices to increase in our state. This is exactly what I and other House Republicans predicted when we debated and voted against Senate Bill 5126 in 2021. Some estimates say this new program has caused state gas prices to increase by 50 cents per gallon. You can learn more about gas prices at this web page.
I continue to have concerns with the cap-and-trade program and its negative impact on not only gas prices, but energy prices, for consumers. The program has already brought in more than $1.4 billion — about three times more revenue than expected. State lawmakers will need to determine what to do with this extra money and there are already proposals that have been introduced. The most important one would rebate some of this to motorists. It will be one of the storylines next legislative session.
To add more uncertainty to the equation, Gov. Inslee’s Department of Ecology recently announced its preliminary decision to pursue linking Washington’s cap-and-trade program (carbon markets) with California and the Canadian province of Québec. This is another issue that will be debated in the upcoming months. Please stay tuned.
WA Cares/payroll tax
The program is unfair and inadequate. It is simply not a good deal for Washington workers and the limited benefits provide a false sense of security. The payroll tax also hurts those living paycheck-to-paycheck. I am also worried that, over time, this payroll tax will increase – becoming even more of a financial burden for those who cannot afford it.
Long-term care insurance may be right for many individuals and families, but it should be your choice and part of your financial planning. There are more flexible options in the private market, which is what many Washington workers opted for when they found out they would be forced into the new state program. Unfortunately, many people could not secure policies by the deadline. You can learn more by visiting this web page.
I have great concerns about the cost of housing, including the cost of building a home, owning a home, or renting property. Years of neglecting the housing issue and piling on new regulations have resulted in a housing crisis – including a shortage of units and increased costs for building and renting. There is bipartisan recognition of the problems and several housing solutions passed in the 2023 legislative session. I expect more progress to be made in the upcoming legislative session. That’s the good news. The bad news: It is going to take time and the best, most effective ideas likely will fail to advance.
There is a reason most states forbid rent control – because it ends up decreasing housing options, thus increasing overall housing costs. Since it has this opposite effect from what is intended, I cannot support it. But, I, and my fellow House Republicans, have been working on proposals that would help stabilize or lower rents – without the negative effects of rent control. I will share more details as bills are introduced.
Keep state trust lands working for Washington
Our state trust lands were granted to the state for the purpose of generating non-tax revenue to support construction of K-12 education facilities. We must continue to manage these lands to produce revenue as well as hundreds of jobs in our district.
A look ahead
State lawmakers will be back at the Capitol Campus soon for what is called Committee Assembly Days. The Senate will convene November 30 – December 1, and the House of Representatives will meet December 4-5. This is a time when we get additional updates on needed policy, receive reports on state agency work performed since the legislative session ended last spring, and prepare for the 2024 legislative session.
The 2024 legislative session begins on January 8 and will run 60 consecutive days. Prefiling of bills starts on December 4.
There are various ways for you to be involved in the legislative process. If you have any questions, please let me know. I encourage you to email, call, or send me a letter if you have any concerns or ideas to pass along. Often when you call, mail, or email, I am in meetings for a couple of days or I need to do some research on the issue prior to responding. So, please know I am working on requests and that it may take a few days to respond.