Jan. 20, 2023
Hello Friends and Neighbors,
Week two of the legislative session ended today. Our work so far is happening almost exclusively at the committee level, and mostly in the form of public hearings on bills. That’s where we hear public testimony, which is typically for or against a bill but occasionally falls into the neutral category.
In the next week or so the committee action will start to lean away from hearings and toward voting on whether to move certain bills forward. I’m also hearing that week after next may have us doing some voting in the Senate chamber, meaning we will be “on the floor.”
Everyone on a committee gets to ask questions during a hearing and vote when the opportunity is presented. However, the power to decide which bills are granted a hearing and which also receive a vote – officially called “executive action” – typically belongs to the committee chair. Keep reading for a new example of how that power is being used to avoid what I consider an important policy discussion.
Proposed ‘wealth tax’ won’t provide the tax relief Washington families need and deserve
Two years ago the Democratic majority adopted a state income tax. At the moment it’s limited to income from capital gains, meaning the proceeds people get from selling certain assets, but we know from public-records disclosures that the end game is to have a full-blown income tax in Washington.
I guess it’s no longer enough to tax people when they sell assets – now our Democratic colleagues want to tax several hundred people in our state simply because they own a lot of assets. It’s being called a “wealth” tax. A link to the Senate version is here.
This idea has problems, to put it mildly. There’s more detail in the statement I issued Wednesday, after the supporters held a press conference, but here’s the bottom line: such a tax is likely unconstitutional, the bipartisan Tax Structure Work Group dropped the idea from a list of taxes it just recommended for legislative consideration, and as proposed would not allow you, the voter, to vote against the tax using the constitutional power of referendum.
Also, the state treasury has $6 billion in reserve, so why is anyone talking about a new tax to generate more revenue?
I see no guarantee in the legislation that lower-income residents of our state will receive direct financial relief from a wealth tax, just some language about “credits” from a new “taxpayer justice account”… whatever that is.
If I had enough money to be hit by this proposed wealth tax, I could easily afford to move out of Washington and avoid paying what would be a minimum $2.5 million to government. Do the Democrats not think about things like that?
There’s time for gun-control bills, but not my bill targeting firearm thieves
Stolen cars are being used to commit other crimes, like smashing into storefronts to steal merchandise or cash machines (in fact, a new report on stolen cars confirms Washington has an auto-theft crisis, as many of us thought already). Common sense tells us that stolen guns are being used by criminals as well.
To me, it would also be common sense to increase the penalty for stealing a firearm. But the Democratic chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee seems to have other ideas. My firearm-theft bill (SB 5409) is getting the same chilly reception from her that my emergency-powers legislation did from the Democratic chair of the Senate’s state government committee.
In response to my written request for a hearing on SB 5409, Sen. Manka Dhingra, from King County, replied: “There is already a statute dealing with theft of a firearm and it is not clear that another statute increasing the criminal penalty for theft of a firearm is needed to address public safety.”
Here, instead, are the gun-control bills Democrats have put in play, starting with the one that seems to be getting the focus on the Senate side of the Legislature:
- Senate Bill 5078 came up for “executive action” before Law and Justice this week. It would require firearm-industry members to establish, implement and enforce controls regarding the manufacture, sale, distribution, import, use, and marketing of their firearm and firearm-related products.
It also would authorize the state attorney general to investigate suspected violations of firearm industry members’ duties and to enforce actions against such firearm industry members… whether there is proof of that or not. This would likely put manufacturers out of business (which is what some supporters of the bill may want).
Democrats on the committee pushed SB 5078 forward yesterday, over unanimous Republican opposition. I’ll be seeing the measure again in Ways and Means, as it has a budget impact. House Bill 1130, which is identical to SB 5078, is before the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.
|I had some firm words for my colleagues on Law and Justice about the proposal to go after firearm manufacturers, dealers and others for how their products they make or sell are used. It’s reminiscent of the way the makers or dealers of other products have been held liable for things beyond their control. Click here or on the image to view my remarks.|
Action on two other anti-gun bills took place this week in the House of Representatives:
- House Bill 1240 received a public hearing in the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and is scheduled for a committee vote a week from today. It and the Senate version, SB 5265, would prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of any “assault weapon,” with exceptions for licensed firearm manufacturers and dealers, and for individuals who inherit an “assault weapon”.
- HB 1178 also received a public hearing on the same day in the same House committee and – you guessed it – is also set for a committee vote next Friday. It and SB 5446 would remove the provisions that limit local regulations of firearms.
Neither Senate Bill 5193 nor the identical House Bill 1180 is scheduled for a committee hearing yet. They would ban the manufacture, importation, distribution, offer for sale or sale of an “assault weapon,” except to the U.S. or state military or to law enforcement agencies.
The Law and Justice chair’s abrupt dismissal of my firearm-theft bill is more disappointing considering that she allowed a public hearing on the previous version in 2022. It was even scheduled for a committee vote, before being mysteriously yanked from the voting list. I was never told why that happened, but with violent crime dominating the nightly local news here in 2023, much of it involving guns, how can Democrats not have interest in deterring firearm thefts? This is a discussion we need to have, and the chair is avoiding it.
More bills, more hearings – and a committee vote
My list of prime-sponsored legislation is up to 21 measures, and although I’m disappointed some have been denied public hearings so far, a total of nine have either come before committees already or are scheduled for hearings. Here are a few I want to highlight this week:
- Exposure to fentanyl (Senate Bill 5010): This common-sense bill would expand how the crime of “endangerment with a controlled substance” is defined. For some reason, fentanyl and synthetic opioids haven’t been on the list of controlled substances mentioned in the endangerment law. My bill would fix that, by “prohibiting knowing or intentional exposure of a dependent adult or dependent child to fentanyl, synthetic opioids, or the smoke created from a substance containing fentanyl or synthetic opioids.”
This bill is aimed not at the fatal exposures to fentanyl — we have other laws for that — but the cases, including several in Clark County, where babies basically overdosed from exposure to fentanyl yet survived. I’m glad our Law and Justice Committee yesterday voted to send this bill forward to the Senate Rules Committee. The Rules committee decides which bills reach the full Senate’s voting calendar.
- Diagnostic imaging (SB 5396): I worked with the Susan G. Komen Foundation on this legislation, which is about eliminating financial barriers for commercial insurance patients who require medically necessary diagnostic breast imaging.
I’m living proof of the value of detecting breast cancer early, and the importance of following up on a mammogram. SB 5396 would remove a barrier many women face when they have reason to seek advanced imaging. It received a hearing from the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee today.
In a couple of months I’ll reach the four-year mark since my successful treatment concluded. My work on this bill reminded me how during the 2019 legislative session, while I was undergoing chemotherapy, many legislators and staff decided to wear pink on Wednesdays to raise awareness of the need for mammograms and self-exams. That need is as great as ever, and this legislation will complement it.
- Homestead exemption/renter credit (SB 5387/SJR 8204): The majority Democrats didn’t give a lot of consideration to the “homestead exemption” bill I introduced in each of the past two sessions. It received a public hearing in 2022, but nothing more.
This legislation is an improvement because renters weren’t assured a benefit from my previous bill, which would have exempted the first $250,000 of a home’s value from the state property tax. SB 5387 adds a “renter’s credit” equal to 2 percent of the gross rent paid. This legislation is scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday in the Ways and Means Committee. It’s part of the Senate Republican package of bills that are aimed at addressing our state’s affordability crisis.
My tax transparency bill (SB 5158) received a hearing in Ways and Means on Tuesday, while my biomarker testing bill (SB 5074) also received a hearing today from the Senate health-care committee.
Scheduled for hearings in the coming week, all in Ways and Means, are my bills to extend a business-tax preference for food processors (SB 5277), next Monday; reestablish a state spending limit (SB 5359), on Tuesday; and my bill regarding homecare aide certification (SB 5278), next Thursday.
I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government.
Yours in service,
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