E-News: From guns to ‘gerrymandering’…

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

It’s been well over a month since our 2024 session ended, but it sure doesn’t feel like it because of all the things that have continued to happen in the legislative arena.

There’s the controversial decision from a federal judge that redrew the boundaries of our legislative district and many others… the belated signing of one of the worst bills passed this year… a court ruling against one of the anti-firearm laws passed in recent years… and the governor’s use of taxpayer resources to prop up his costly cap-and-tax law. Keep reading for details.

I’m also working with Representative Harris and Representative Waters on a summary of the recently concluded session, to be mailed out in the near future. And although I won’t be seeking re-election later this year, my term in office doesn’t expire until a new senator is sworn in – when the next Legislature convenes on Jan. 13, 2025. So keep the emails, phone calls, and letters coming, and I’ll keep reaching out like this when there is something to report!

Attorney general’s anti-firearm crusade stumbles in Cowlitz County; new ruling expected next week

I opposed the 2022 legislation that banned the sale, transfer, and import of firearm magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Nothing about that year’s SB 5078, requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson as part of his anti-firearm crusade, suggested it would reduce the seemingly daily shootings in some of our state’s more populated areas, or deter those who use guns when committing robberies, carjackings and so on. Not only that, but it was completely unconstitutional!

Just before the ban went into effect, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a New York law requiring people seeking a concealed-carry permit to prove they needed to carry a gun. Writing for the majority in what’s known as the Bruen decision, Justice Clarence Thomas correctly noted “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.”

In September, AG Ferguson had sued a Kelso firearms retailer in Cowlitz County Superior Court, claiming it had violated the magazine ban. Oops. Cowlitz County isn’t liberal Thurston County, where Ferguson’s office is. On April 8 the judge in that case ordered an immediate injunction against the ban in a ruling that included references to the Bruen decision.

Of course, Ferguson immediately went running to the state Supreme Court with an emergency motion for a “stay” of the judge’s well-written ruling, making the unprovable claim that the law “literally saves lives.” Wouldn’t you know, a stay was granted within an hour by the Supreme Court commissioner… not the justices themselves. No way was that enough time for anyone to fully read and deliberate on the judge’s 55-page ruling plus Ferguson’s 33-page motion.

supreme court commissioner
Click here or on the image to view yesterday’s hearing on TVW.

Yesterday that same unelected commissioner held an hour-long hearing, which began with a 30-minute explanation of what he does and how his April 8 decision came about, plus references to direct and very negative reactions he received by phone and email after granting the stay.

The court commissioner made a point of describing himself as a gun enthusiast, and spoke at times as though he actually is. After listening to arguments from attorneys for both sides, he said he expects to have a ruling out by the end of next week, to either continue or end the stay of the Cowlitz judge’s injunction. 

As a tireless supporter of the Second Amendment AND the even clearer right to bear arms found in Washington’s constitution (Article I, Section 24), I will be following this very closely.

‘Gerrymandering’ in Yakima Valley spills over into OUR legislative district

Every 10 years the boundaries of our state’s 49 legislative districts are reset by an independent, bipartisan commission, using the latest U.S. Census data. The idea is to keep district populations as uniform as possible as Washington’s population shifts and expands.

The latest map of legislative boundaries was unanimously approved by the redistricting commission in November 2021 and confirmed by the Legislature during the 2022 session. The map included what’s called a “majority-minority” district, meaning more than half the voting-age population was Hispanic. It’s the 15th Legislative District, in the Yakima Valley.

So why is our 17th District changing shape now, instead of in 2032? Because out-of-state interests filed suit against the 2022 map, claiming the 73% Hispanic 15th District wasn’t Hispanic enough. A federal judge recently agreed and endorsed a new 15th District map – drawn by the people who sued, which hardly seems unbiased.  And in an even more ironic twist, the judge’s decision and new maps oust 15th District Senator Nikki Torres – the first Latina senator ever elected in Eastern Washington.

with Sen. Torres
Sen. Nikki Torres, R-Pasco, has been pushed out of her Central Washington legislative district by a federal judge and the majority Democrats’ decision to sidestep our state constitution.

Besides pushing three sitting Republican senators out of their districts (north central Washington’s 12th District and Yakima’s 14th District as well as Senator Torres) the new 15th District map has a ripple effect on surrounding districts, including ours. Members of the House also are affected. Because the boundary of the 17th District now pushes into Klickitat County, a state representative who lives in Goldendale is out of the 14th District she serves, and is now a resident of ours! It’s crazy.

This is an open-and-shut case of “gerrymandering,” which gives one party an unfair advantage. The term is more than 200 years old – it’s a mashup of the word “salamander” and the name of a former Massachusetts governor, and was first used in a newspaper cartoon that mocked a biased district map.

Our state’s redistricting commission was created by legislators and voters through a constitutional amendment approved in 1983; the bipartisan makeup of the commission is intended to prevent gerrymandering.

The job of redrawing the 15th District map should have belonged to the bipartisan redistricting commission. Early in this year’s session I supported a motion intended to reconvene that commission; by voting no, the majority Democrats knowingly left the federal judge in control. This is unbelievably wrong.

Worst law of the session: the move to ban heating and cooking with natural gas

For the past few years our Senate Republican Caucus has focused on returning our state to what we call “affordability,” along with restoring public safety across Washington and supporting K-12 education and other policies to ensure our better future for our children and grandchildren.

Natural gas is more affordable for heating and/or cooking, as it costs about 33% less than electricity. But the passage of HB 1589, signed by the governor March 28, spells the end of access to natural gas for the customers of the largest utility monopoly in Washington (Puget Sound Energy, which as the name suggests doesn’t have customers south of Lewis County).

It will be some time before the gas is shut off, area by area, because PSE first needs to get its plan blessed by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission. That’s good because customers will need all the time they can get to save up for converting their gas appliances to electric… which could ultimately total up to $70,000 per home!

Section 8 of this unnecessary, heavy-handed law prohibits PSE from offering rebates, incentives, etc. for purchasing natural-gas appliances. Apparently the utility can’t be trusted to make that decision on its own.

Also, PSE will be required to “initiate and maintain an effort to educate its ratepayers about the benefits of electrification”… including an “educational website and the inclusion of educational materials in monthly billing statements.” Let’s see: last year PSE was forbidden by AG Ferguson from disclosing the cost of Inslee’s cap-and-tax law (the “Climate Commitment Act” or CCA) on billing statements, but now it’s not only OK but mandatory to use billing statements as pro-electrification propaganda. What a double standard!

When HB 1589 came to the floor of the Senate chamber on Feb. 29, I offered an amendment to take both of those mandates out of the bill, but of course it was rejected.

When we debated HB 1589, Democrats denied it would ban natural gas. Well, here’s what the governor said when signing the bill: “This bill creates the roadmap and tools for our state’s largest utility to get out of the fossil-fuel business.” That’s pretty explicit!

The truth is, a state-sanctioned withdrawal of access to natural gas is no different than a ban. I doubt Puget Sound Energy had any plan to get out of the natural-gas business until it saw the financial writing on the wall caused by the Climate Commitment Act/CCA. Which natural-gas provider will be next? Remember, there would be no incentive for this bill if our state did not have the cap-and-tax law in the first place.

Cap-and-tax, Part II: Self-promotion at taxpayers’ expense

Speaking of propaganda, the “climate.wa.gov” website created by the governor’s office to promote the Climate Commitment Act apparently is not enough: it includes a hyperlink to a “CCA brand toolkit” for agencies to use.

If you are familiar with a “land acknowledgement” (as an example, Washington State University “acknowledges that its locations statewide are on the homelands of Native peoples, who have lived in this region from time immemorial”) then get ready for the “funding acknowledgement” that must be used by anyone receiving money generated by cap-and-tax/CCA.

“The funding source acknowledgment should be used in project- or program-related publications, websites, signage, invitations, and other media-related and public-outreach products. The standard funding language to be used is: 

“The [PROGRAM NAME / GRANT / ETC.] is supported with funding from Washington’s Climate Commitment Act. The CCA supports Washington’s climate action efforts by putting cap-and-invest dollars to work reducing climate pollution, creating jobs, and improving public health. Information about the CCA is available at www.climate.wa.gov.”

The state Department of Transportation isn’t required to acknowledge how highway projects are paid for by the gas tax. Schools aren’t required to acknowledge how they are funded through property taxes. The Washington State Patrol isn’t forced to acknowledge that it’s funded through transportation-related fees.

Could the governor’s mandated PR campaign have anything to do with Initiative 2117, which would repeal the cap-and-tax/trade/Climate Commitment Act? It’s one of those things that make you go hmmm… 

I encourage you to visit the “CCA brand toolkit” web page and see for yourself just how far the governor is taking this. Then visit this web page to learn more about I-2117 and the other two initiatives that will be on the ballot in November.

April 30 is deadline for applying to Legislative Youth Advisory Council

The Legislative Youth Advisory Council was created by a Senate bill almost 20 years ago. The purpose and makeup of the LYAC is found in state law here, but in short, it’s composed of at least 22 students ages 14-18, who serve two-year terms and have a duty to (among other things) advise legislators on proposed and pending legislation, including state budget expenditures and policy matters relating to youth.

The council falls under the office of Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, a former U.S. representative and Clark County legislator who doubles as president of the Senate (he’s also an old friend, even though our political philosophies may differ). The application period for the LYAC 2024-2026 cohort will be until April 30. Visit https://walyac.org/apply to enter the application portal on the LYAC website.  


I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government. Have an amazing day!

Yours in service,

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To read this e-newsletter in other languages, click here to visit my Senate news page, look for the American flag midway down the right side, then click on the symbol right of the “EN” for a drop-down menu!