E-News: Three down, three to go! Initiatives are moving… and that’s a good thing!

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

With less a week left in our 2024 session, I’m generally pleased with the bipartisan support for several of my bills (read below for that exciting news!) – and happier to see the progress of the voter initiatives submitted to us.

Yesterday brought the next-to-last deadline of this session, which was to take action on the House bills sent over for our consideration. My Mount St. Helens special license plate (SB 5590) didn’t make the cut but could still be alive because of the budgetary implications. That’s what happened in 2023, so I am not declaring it dead yet.

The FINAL deadline is the day we are scheduled to adjourn… next Thursday. Between now and then, our focus will be on two things: adopting the final versions of the three supplemental budgets, and deciding whether to agree with changes made by the House to bills passed by the Senate.

If we agree with how the House has amended a Senate bill, our “concurrence” completes the work on that bill, and it goes to the governor for consideration. If not, we can ask the House to drop its amendments and adopt the Senate bill in the form that we sent it over.

When one chamber won’t yield to the other, meaning the Senate and House both “insist” on their positions, the typical remedy is for each chamber to designate members to confer and reach a compromise. That becomes the final version to come before us for a vote.

A similar approach is used to get to the final versions of the operating, capital and transportation budgets – or this year, the supplemental budgets we must adopt. Those discussions are in progress; for me, as Senate Republican budget leader, the question is whether the House Democrats will try to push for more spending and less savings, which I’ve seen from them before.

The governor has a set number of days to take action on a bill once it is delivered from the Legislature. Without getting into the weeds, the real question is whether the governor will veto part or all of a bill.

Fortunately, the initiatives passed by the Legislature completely bypass the governor to become law, so there is no danger in him vetoing any of them. That’s good, because Governor Inslee has proposed an income tax before, and that brings me to… the three initiatives moving through the legislative process!

Three voter initiatives are on track to become law; we should act on all six

I’ll step back for a moment and review the three options we have for responding to the record-setting six voter initiatives submitted to us this session.

Legislators may adopt the initiative as written, in which case it becomes law; refuse to pass it, which would result in the measure automatically being placed on the next statewide general-election ballot; or propose and approve an alternative, in which case the original and alternative measures would appear together on the fall statewide ballot.

We are on track to adopt Initiative 2113, to repeal the restrictions on police pursuits; Initiative 2081, about encouraging parental involvement in their children’s schools; and Initiative 2111, which would prohibit any future income tax in our state.

Of those who used the legislative website to register their opinion on I-2111, which received a public hearing this past Tuesday before a joint meeting of our Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Finance Committee, 6,479 people (89.2%) were in favor, and 755 were not. TVW’s coverage of the hearing is here.

On Wednesday the hearing on I-2081 took place before a joint meeting of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee and the House Education Committee. That measure drew 6,171 people (89.1%) who signed up in support, while 715 were opposed. TVW’s coverage of the hearing can be viewed here.

Later that morning, there was a joint hearing on Initiative 2113 before our Senate Law and Justice Committee and the House Committee on Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry. Of those who registered their opinion on I-2113, 5,752 people were supportive, while only 196 signed up in opposition.

The majority Democrats allotted an hour for each hearing, which seemed stingy, considering these initiatives each attracted well over 400,000 voter signatures. I was very critical afterward of how the I-2113 hearing was conducted by the majority committee chairs.

It really isn’t a “public” hearing when the conversation is dominated by staged questions from legislators to legislative staff (which could have waited and been handled separately), and remote testimony from people at the University of South Carolina and New York University. Right at the end, with just five minutes to spare, two moms got to speak in person. As reported in The Center Square, I thought the hearing was a sham!

Fast forward to yesterday, when all three initiatives came back before those Senate and House committees (separately, this time) for votes. Each was approved! Afterward I offered this public statement about being thrilled to vote in favor of I-2113, which was supported by nearly 92% of those responding to my recent online survey, and I-2111, supported by more than 90% of survey respondents.

As my statement also explains, we need to pass those two and I-2081 through the Legislature next week and take action on the other three – at least a public hearing on each!

Majority’s move against firearm dealers is really an attack on legitimate businesses that sell legal products

While shootings in and around our state’s largest city seem to happen almost daily, my majority-Democrat colleagues keep passing legislation that infringes on the constitutional rights of law-abiding firearm owners.

Earlier this week the majority leaders in the House pulled SB 5444 out of a committee and brought it to the floor for a vote. This bill, passed in early February by the Senate on a partisan vote, would prohibit people from knowingly possessing a firearm on the premises of libraries, zoos, aquariums, and transit facilities, called “sensitive places.”

2118 grab
Click here or on the image to listen to the speech I made in the Senate chamber against the bill that would punish law-abiding firearms dealers.

There’s an exception for those with concealed-carry permits, but my question is: Would this new law deter criminals from carrying or using a firearm in a transit station? We know the answer is…..no.  Of course not. I worry these restrictive gun bills will make people think it will make them safer, when that is far from the truth.

I’ve saved the worst firearm-related bill for last. It’s HB 2118, passed Wednesday night with another partisan vote in the Senate.

This won’t make Washington safer, as the proponents claim, and as I noted during the debate that preceded the vote, if the Legislature can do this to one set of legitimate businesses that sell legal products, it can target other businesses just as easily…just because they don’t like your industry.

The news release I issued afterward includes this: “The anti-gun extremists are finally realizing they can’t seize firearms from law-abiding people, or regulate them away, so this bill goes after the supply side of the equation. It would basically smother the retailers who are unable to comply with the new onerous mandates, and that means most if not all, in our state. I also don’t see how gun shows will be able to survive this.”

If this bill was based on fact, I might not be so bothered by it. But the fact is, less than 2% of guns stolen in Washington are stolen from a gun dealer.

While we convinced the majority to amend an important part of the bill – a change sought by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – I’m quite certain this will be a death sentence for many firearms dealers, even if the House agrees with that change.

Losing firearms dealers will also hinder police from “tracing” firearms used in a crime, since these dealers keep all the information (already) for years and regularly help to determine the owner of stolen firearms. Click here to view the argument I made against passing this bill.

Four Wilson bills win full legislative approval; my ‘One Pill Kills’ bill passed unanimously by House

My “One Pill Kills legislation” (SB 5906) was in the last batch of Senate bills to move forward early this week, after I agreed to several changes. It was placed on the House voting calendar Thursday and became the very last bill before yesterday’s 5 p.m. deadline, passing with a unanimous vote from the full House. It requires the Department of Licensing to do public outreach over the airwaves to warn of the dangers of the highly potent drug, fentanyl.

Because the bill was amended, it must come back to the Senate for concurrence, but knowing how the Senate had also supported it unanimously, I believe it will soon be on a path to the governor’s desk.

By no means does this come close to offsetting the House Democrats’ repeated refusal to allow even a committee vote on my SB 5010, to add fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to the 2002 state law on endangerment of a child with a controlled substance. Still, it’s progress on another important front, and it deserves to become law. For the life of me, I can’t understand why they won’t deal head-on with the skyrocketing overdoses (poisonings, really) and deaths of small children by their drug-addicted parents!

SB 5835, my “plain talk” bill, made it to the House voting calendar but no farther. I figure it was a casualty of some of the last-minute wrangling over other bills before yesterday’s voting deadline, meaning the House simply ran out of time to consider it. This bill would require all agencies to explain their new rules in 100 words in plain language, and I think that’s an idea worth proposing again next year. It would have been ultra-helpful for small businesses trying to comply with new state agency rules.

The four other bills of mine that had been placed on the House calendar all were moved through this week, without changes. They are:

  • SB 5836 would add a 12th seat to the Clark County Superior Court bench;
  • SB 6263 would double the funeral benefit for firefighters covered by pre-1970 pensions;
  • SB 6234 would support screening of newborns for BCKDK… “branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase kinase deficiency” relating to possible early detection of autism; and
  • SB 6291, passed by the House today, would start reforming how the State Building Code Council does business.

Because the House passed these bills in the same form as the Senate, the Legislature’s work on them is completed. They have or will be delivered to the governor, and I expect he will sign them all.

The policy contained in a fifth bill of mine, SB 6171, will be reflected in what’s called a “proviso” in the supplemental operating budget. It will pay for a study concerning the childcare needs of those who work non-standard hours, like law enforcement officers (LEOs) and first responders.

A detective from the Vancouver Police Department brought the idea for this bill to me, explaining how many women can’t advance in their careers as LEOs because the unique hours they work prevent them from finding good childcare. The policy to be studied with support from the budget proviso has been put into place in three other states already.

More fallout from cap-and-trade: A plan to ban use of natural gas

On Thursday the Senate majority forced a vote on a bill that had already been passed by the House Democrats yet was written so poorly that Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck, who is also president of the Senate, agreed with us that it didn’t meet the standard for acceptable legislation. He literally called it a “hot mess” and basically told his fellow Democrats they’d have to try again.

The bill was basically rewritten overnight to deal with the errors we pointed out, and became the last of the House bills passed by the Senate before yesterday’s voting deadline.

My previous report included another mention of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission and its role in silencing the state’s largest monopoly utility company, Puget Sound Energy. That happened in 2023 when PSE wanted to include a line on utility bills about how much customers are paying because of the cap-and-trade law Governor Inslee and legislative Democrats enacted in 2021.

The UTC said no – including such a line item on bills would be confusing to customers. Thanks to NW Natural customers in Clark County, we have an uncensored sense of just how much the “Climate Commitment Act” is costing all of us in one way or another.

The House bill that had to be rewritten and was passed at the last minute is House Bill 1589, and it’s also about PSE and cap-and-trade.

Specifically, the utility had approached our majority-Democrat colleagues about enacting a policy that would basically let PSE treat its gas and electricity services as a single system. This would happen through a plan that can be approved by the UTC – a plan that would set the stage for the utility to begin dismantling the infrastructure that supports natural-gas service. It would all be done in the name of “electrification,” and reduce the utility’s exposure to the cap-and-trade law.

It reminds me a great deal of the battles I’ve been fighting as a member of the State Building Code Council, which is also trying to restrict access to natural gas (again, in the name of “electrification”).

When I spoke against HB 1589 from the floor of the Senate chamber (click here to see the video), I zeroed in on what it would cost an average homeowner with natural-gas appliances to convert to electric appliances. The Building Industry Association of Washington estimates electrifying one home would run between $30,700 and $74,400, and my figures track with that.

It’s easy to see how harmful this would be. Natural gas costs about 33% less than electricity, retrofit costs would be enormous, most people wouldn’t qualify for the financial assistance offered through HB 1589, housing costs would increase, rents would go up… and it goes on.

Because PSE has a monopoly, it’s not like customers can go elsewhere for energy. Our debate prior to the vote yesterday touched on how this also is a regressive policy, because it would hit low-income and marginalized communities harder. But that doesn’t seem to matter to our Democrat colleagues (even though they often complain about regressivity…we heard that word a lot during Wednesday’s hearing on the income-tax-ban initiative). Luxury beliefs, corporate welfare and ideology won out, at the expense of working Washington families, when they passed HB 1589 on a partisan vote after rejecting every common-sense amendment Republicans proposed.

One of the reasons Republicans support Initiative 2109, to repeal the state tax on capital-gains income, is because we know how easily that tax could be expanded to grab more revenue. The concern is similar here: this policy may be tailor-made for one utility, but it’s not the only utility subject to the Climate Commitment Act. It wouldn’t take much for the majority to expand the law so that more consumers get stuck paying for costs related to cap-and-trade.

The mission of the UTC, according to its website, is to “protect the people of Washington by ensuring investor-owned utility and transportation services are safe, equitable, available, reliable and fairly priced.”

In the case of HB 1589, I fear the UTC is flipping that around, and taking the side of PSE rather than consumers, all in the name of “decarbonization.” It’s another reason I support Initiative 2117 – it would repeal the cap-and-trade law and help us swing the pendulum back so customers like PSE’s could have a chance to be treated fairly.

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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