E-News: That’s all, folks! Legislature ends historic session

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

My 10th and final session as a state legislator (the video of my announcement is here) ended on time Thursday – several hours ahead of the midnight deadline, in fact. It was also free of the drama I’ve seen in other years as legislators try desperately to save bills before the gavels fall in the Senate and House of Representatives and bring our time at the Capitol to a close.

That said, one of the last bills through was my “One Pill Kills” legislation, SB 5906. It passed unanimously in the Senate in mid-February, but the House made a significant change before also passing it unanimously on March 1. That meant it needed to come back to the Senate for us to consider the effect of the House amendment. At my request, the Senate refused this past Tuesday to agree (“concur”) and asked the House to drop the change it made (“recede”).

The House agreed to recede but then tacked on a different amendment before passing SB 5906 back to us Wednesday. As the prime sponsor, it was again my call whether to agree with the new change. I chose to go ahead, the Senate voted Thursday afternoon to concur, and the bill went off to the governor for final consideration.

Because part of this compromise version of “One Pill Kills” is similar to a bill proposed by a Democrat member of the House, which also passed, let’s see what the governor does. He has 20 days from the time we adjourn, not counting Sundays, to veto all or part of bills passed up to five days before the session ends.

I also am curious to see if he takes his veto pen to my SB 6291, which would start reforming how the State Building Code Council does business. In recent years the governor has stacked that group with appointees who support his climate agenda, and I suspect he doesn’t appreciate someone like me trying to bring a higher level of transparency and accountability to how it operates.

Budget summary: no new taxes but new investments for our district

Traditionally, the supplemental budgets passed in year two of the budget cycle are supposed to be about three things: adjusting for changes in what we call “caseloads” (like school enrollments or the number of people on public assistance), correcting errors and responding to emergencies.

The supplemental operating budgets adopted in 2020 and 2022 went away from that standard because of the pandemic, so I wanted to get back to it this year. The version adopted by the Senate in February was closer, for several reasons, but the final version that emerged from negotiations with the House is close enough. The Senate passed it Thursday with a strong bipartisan vote.

Besides living within the state’s means (meaning no new taxes), the new supplemental operating budget is responsive to public-safety and K-12 concerns I and my Republican colleagues have. I am disappointed that some of the funding the Senate wanted in those two areas – to tackle the problem of chronic absenteeism in our schools, and the increase in property crimes and robberies of cannabis retailers, and also to support the work of drug task forces – was dropped as a result of negotiations with the House.

On the bright side, important investments in behavioral-health treatment and other education and public-safety needs are being addressed. They include two pieces of the Senate Republican “Recovery Washington” agenda, including SB 5906.

Eight projects in our district are funded through the supplemental capital budget, passed unanimously in both chambers Wednesday. The largest appropriation ($14.2 million) is for replacing the intake at the Washougal Salmon Hatchery, followed by $5.2 million for the new high school in Stevenson.

The capital-budget revisions also include $1.03 million for the Skamania PUD water tank replacement; $300,000 each for downtown Camas lighting and the new Station 41 headquarters for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department; $200,000 for the Skamania county public safety radio system; another $37,000 for the Stevenson-Carson School District, and $21,000 for the Mill A School District, in Cook.

The supplemental transportation budget also passed unanimously, on Thursday. The highlights include about $110 million toward the project to widen State Route 502 between Interstate 5 and Battle Ground, and the project to build auxiliary lanes in both directions on State Route 14 between Interstate 205 and SE 164th Avenue.

initiatives rally

Session ends with three of six initiatives passed

One of the major differences between a bill sponsored by a legislator and an initiative sponsored by the people of Washington is… a bill dies sooner or later if it isn’t moved ahead. An initiative can’t die, because if the Legislature ignores it – meaning the measure is not enacted during the legislative session – it automatically goes to the general-election ballot.

It was my privilege a week ago to vote to pass not one, or two, but three initiatives submitted by the people to us this year. Enough Democrats joined with every Republican legislator in the Senate and House to pass Initiative 2111, banning any income tax in Washington; Initiative 2081, to reinforce parental rights related to public education; and Initiative 2113, to repeal the pursuit limits that have encouraged lawlessness across our state.

This was historic by any measure. Only six times in the past 110 years had lawmakers enacted initiatives submitted to them; the other 32 were sent on to the ballot. We enacted three into law in one day!

Considering the Senate’s floor session Thursday didn’t start until 1 p.m. there would have been ample time to hold public hearings on the three other initiatives: Initiative 2117, which would repeal the state’s costly cap-and-trade policy; Initiative 2109, to repeal the state tax on income from capital gains; and Initiative 2124, which would let Washington workers opt out of the mandatory payroll tax for the state-run long-term care program called “WA Cares.”

Unfortunately, the majority Democrats stuck to the position they took a few weeks ago: no public hearings and no votes on the cap-and-trade, capital-gains and payroll-tax initiatives.

The final question in the online survey I conducted about the initiatives simply asked what the Legislature should do with them. Of those responding, 65% said legislators should pass all six while we were in session; 22% said don’t pass any and allow them all to go to the November ballot; and 13% voted for a hybrid… which is exactly how it turned out.

As I mentioned when announcing I would not seek another Senate term, I intend to spend time this summer and fall talking with people about the initiatives that passed and did not pass while we were in session. After all, more than 800,000 Washington voters signed petitions supporting at least one of the initiatives; I am confident that many of them are residents of our district, and a majority of those responding to my survey wanted to see all six pass, not three. They deserve to know what happened!

Strongly Support Initiatives


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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