E-NEWSLETTER: An uprising at the Capitol

Hello, Friends and Neighbors!

Today is Day 26 at the Capitol, meaning we are one-fourth of the way through our 105-day session. We’re also two weeks from the first deadline of the session, which is the “cutoff” for Senate policy committees to take action on Senate bills.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my previous newsletter. One of my bills has already won unanimous approval from the full Senate, and most of the other legislation I’ve introduced is moving forward.

Also, I’m grateful for the terrific response to my online transportation survey – but all good things have to end sometime, so consider this the last call, as I’ll need time to compile the results into something that can be shared with our bi-state committee on bridge-replacement options. If you still want to share your opinion, please click on this link. The survey will stay open for one more week, through next Friday.

Uprising by hairstylists, cosmetologists, barbers spells end for controversial bill
Several bills that have come before the Senate committees already this session have me suspecting that an organized effort is being made to put unreasonable new demands on people who choose to be self-employed. That’s not good.

A good example is a bill that had a committee hearing last week: Senate Bill 5326. It targeted hairstylists, barbers and cosmetologists who rent booths to offer their professional services independently.

The bill was supposedly about giving these “booth renters,” as it called them, access to unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation — which they already have, if they were to pay premiums to the state. The underlying intent seemed to be more about hindering their ability to continue being sole proprietors, and that part didn’t go over well.

Word of the bill spread across social media like wildfire, and an army showed up for the hearing before the Labor and Commerce committee. There were well over 500 people in the meeting room and overflow areas alone, and in all more than 1,300 registered their opinions either in person or via the committee’s electronic check-in system. It was a great example of democracy in action, as well as an encouraging display of unity from business owners.

The member of the Senate majority who introduced the bill, and also chairs the committee, announced later in the week that she would drop the idea. Unfortunately, there are several other anti-business bills still on the table.

Some, like SB 5326, would also infringe on people who work for themselves (examples: SB 5513, SB 5690) while others would hit businesses that have more than one employee (examples: SB 5035, SB 5623, SB 5190). Those proposals are on top of the 67% increase in B&O tax that the governor wants to impose on professional services (like child care, and veterinarians), claiming they are undertaxed!!!

I’m reminded of the old line about the government showing up to offer help even though no one asked for it. Whether they call themselves independent contractors or sole proprietors, people who run a one-person company don’t need what the Senate majority is wanting to sell them in the form of these bills. The same goes for businesses with more than one employee.

As someone who is committed to increasing job opportunities in our state and reducing regulations that hinder economic growth, I’m very disappointed by these proposals and their common anti-business thread, and will oppose them if they come before me for a vote.

My growth-management reform bill clears Senate, others continue progress
On Wednesday, for the second time this session, the Senate committees took a break so the full Senate could meet and vote on several bills. One was my SB 5151, which would require the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board to develop a “rational system” for filing its decisions and orders. The bill passed unanimously and has been referred to the House Environment & Energy Committee.

My Senate Republican colleagues and I are working this session to make a range of updates to the state’s growth-management laws, especially in areas that will help increase the supply of housing and help address the affordable-housing situation across Washington. I hope the strong bipartisan support for SB 5151 carries over to our other ideas as well.

Early this week I testified in support of legislation I’m co-sponsoring (SB 5345) that would require health plans to cover bilateral mastectomies for women wanting to reduce their risk of breast cancer.

Several more of my bills have seen action since my previous report. They are:

SB 5148 – My bill to allow hunters to wear blaze pink as their required high-visibility clothing (in addition to fluorescent orange) was placed by the Senate Rules Committee on our voting calendar.

SB 5520 – This is another bill related to growth management, and would allow local governments such as Clark County’s more flexibility when it comes to deciding to extend services (such as sewer connections) beyond the boundaries of an urban growth area. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me that an emergency situation has to exist before such a decision can be considered. SB 5520 received a public hearing before the Local Government committee this week. The committee chair, Senator Takko, a Democrat from Longview, is the lead co-sponsor on my bill. That’s a positive sign.

SB 5428 – My Mental Health for Heroes Act cleared the Senate higher-education committee this week. I’m not surprised, because the Senate has been solidly behind this bill each of the past two years, passing it unanimously. It would help veterans attending a four-year university or college in Washington who are in need of counseling to help with unique issues such as mental trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because SB 5428 would require a budget appropriation, it’s been referred to the Ways and Means committee, as has my SB 5147, to exempt feminine-hygiene products from Washington’s retail sales and use tax. I’m now on Ways and Means, which had a public hearing this week on another of my bills: SB 5149, which is about alerting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking in real time when the perpetrator involved is nearby, through the use of electronic-monitoring technology.

SB 5362There’s nothing new about people licensing vehicles in other states to save money, especially in border counties. Clark County alone is home to an estimated 20,000 vehicles with license plates from other states, mostly Oregon. But whether the owners want to admit it or not, dodging our registration fees and sales tax is a form of fraud, and it costs our state about $16 million each year that should be staying here for transportation-related needs. My bill would basically allow a one-time deferred prosecution as an incentive to get people to comply with the licensing law. This year, both the Democrat chair of the committee and its ranking Republican are co-sponsoring the bill, so I am more hopeful it will come before the full Senate.

Independent voters left out of Senate’s change to presidential primary
A year from now, the Iowa presidential caucuses will be over and the New Hampshire presidential primary will be imminent. It’s possible that our state’s presidential primary will take place in early March instead of late May, as the law now says – but that may not matter for the large number of independent voters across Washington.

One of the handful of bills passed by the Senate so far this session would shift Washington’s presidential primary ahead by about 10 weeks. The idea is to make our state relevant and attract more candidates so voters can interact with them. That part of Senate Bill 5273 sounds good; the problem is that it also would disenfranchise voters who don’t want to be identified as either Democrat or Republican.

Kim Wyman, Washington’s Secretary of State, has long proposed a change in the presidential primary date. The bill she requested this year (SB 5229) would continue Washington’s tradition of accommodating independent voters. However, my colleagues across the aisle were united behind SB 5273, which wouldn’t allow voters to participate unless they choose a party-affiliated ballot. One of my Republican colleagues offered an amendment to treat unaffiliated voters fairly, but it was turned down.

I understand the politics behind this but think it’s a shame that independent voters would be shut out.

In closing, I’m continuing to keep close watch on the measles situation in Clark County, and I greatly appreciate the many e-mails and phone calls coming in from the people of our district about that and issues before us.

Click here to see the full list of bills I’ve introduced and co-sponsored so far this session. If you plan to come to the Capitol before the session ends on April 28, please let me know!

Yours in service,