April 14, 2022
Hello Friends and Neighbors,
My previous report mentioned how most of the legislation passed during our 2022 session takes effect 90 days from the end of the session. The 90-day standard is in Article II, Section 1 of our state constitution.
There are two exceptions: new laws that contain what’s known as the “emergency clause,” which take effect as soon as the governor signs them, and those which specify a different effective date.
Here’s more information about some of this year’s new laws, as well as other actions that were taken and issues we discussed this year.
Building on the Tiffany Hill Act: My SB 5612 ensures domestic-violence victims and their survivors will be able to offer statements at the time of the attacker’s sentencing. This new law would not have helped Tiffany Hill, whose murder by her estranged husband led to the 2020 passage of the Tiffany Hill Act. He had been arrested and charged with domestic violence, but not convicted and sentenced. However, it will help others, as I explained in a news release after the governor signed the bill March 30.
This new law is one of the many taking effect June 9, which is 90 days from the March 10 end of our session. It received a “cheer” recently from The Columbian.
Majority’s spending looks even worse now: The governor knew better than to sign the new supplemental state operating budget on April 1. That would have opened the door to jokes (“Hey, the new budget provides tax relief. April Fool!”), so it happened March 31.
As this report on the budget signing mentions, Governor Inslee highlighted the $800 million-plus being funneled toward the homelessness situation, calling it big, bold and fast. My question is, what are the chances anyone will – at some point down the road – be able to call it “successful”? So far, throwing money at the situation hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference. Our state spent $2.5 billion last year on homelessness, yet only California saw a higher increase than Washington in the number of unsheltered and chronically homeless people. We can and must do better.
My concern with the budget was the same on signing day as it was all along: Instead of using any of the massive $15 billion surplus for permanent tax relief, at a time when families are facing a level of price inflation many have never seen, the majority Democrats had other priorities that won’t directly aid the average Washington family.
Click here to read my full statement about the budget signing, which pointed out how the majority has no defense for all that spending; here’s the quote picked up by The Associated Press.
“It’s been easy to explain to my constituents why Republicans opposed this budget – all I have to do is point to how the costs of living have continued to rise in the weeks since it was adopted, and the huge revenue surplus the Democrats had available,” Republican Sen. Lynda Wilson said in a statement.
The budget traditionally includes the so-called “emergency clause,” which causes a bill to take effect immediately once it’s signed. For that reason, the budget law is already in effect even though the next fiscal year doesn’t begin until July 1.
When do restrictions on firearms begin? I can’t explain why two of the three firearm restrictions to become law this year don’t take effect until July 1, but it’s something people should know. These are the policies created by Senate Bill 5078, which bans the sale, transfer, and import of firearm magazines holding more than 10 rounds, and House Bill 1705, which bans hobbyists and gun enthusiasts from assembling firearms using various parts.
The third is House Bill 1630, which bans firearms at schools, local-government meetings and election-related facilities. It takes effect like most new laws, on June 9.
Shootings seem to have become a daily occurrence in Puget Sound communities, and homicide rates are headed for record territory in some. I’d sure like to see statistics on how many of those involve stolen firearms, versus firearms capable of holding 10+ rounds, and the so-called “ghost” guns. None of these new laws is going to end the wave of violent crime in our state; my bill to impose longer prison sentences for the theft of a firearm might help, but the majority Democrats have shown no real interest in SB 5407 either of the past two years.
Governor uses veto pen in puzzling, frustrating ways: After a bill is passed by both chambers, it is delivered to the governor, who then must decide whether to let the bill become law. If the bill is not vetoed either in part or in full, within a certain number of days, it will become law no matter. Also, while the governor may veto one or more sections of a bill, vetoing less than an entire section is not allowed by Washington’s constitution.
Governor Inslee has been sued twice by the legislative branch, most recently in December, for using his veto pen on less than an entire section of a bill. The state Supreme Court sided with legislators the first time, and I won’t be surprised if we go 2-for-2.
I’m not aware that any rules were broken by this year’s vetoes, but some of them are real head-shakers. For instance, the Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 1623, which was introduced by a Republican House member and attracted strong bipartisan sponsorship because it had to do with assessing the risk of power brownouts and blackouts in our state.
Specifically, the bill would have sharpened the focus of energy-resource adequacy meetings already assigned to the Department of Commerce and the state Utilities and Transportation Commission. It also would have required those meetings to continue, at least annually, for another five years, through 2029. I saw it as a very important and timely proposal, considering how members of the State Building Code Council – who are appointed, and not directly accountable to voters – are moving toward banning the use of natural gas to heat buildings or water, which means more dependence on electricity.
Imagine my reaction when Governor Inslee vetoed the entire bill! His justification is posted here; in so many words, he says HB 1623 is redundant. It’s as though he overlooked or didn’t understand the specific changes called out in the legislation.
Another example is Senate Bill 5901, which also passed easily. I supported the bill because it would have offered a tax preference intended to attract warehousing operations to rural counties. While the governor didn’t veto the entire bill, he achieved the same result by vetoing the tax-preference part that made the bill worthwhile in the first place. His excuse is here.
If the governor “returns” a bill to the Legislature, as the state constitution puts it, the Senate and House of Representatives have the option to override the veto, with a two-thirds vote in each chamber. The Seattle Times has called for the Legislature to override the veto of SB 5901, which I would support. But remember, the Democrat-controlled House wouldn’t challenge Inslee by making any change to the state’s emergency-powers law. Why does anyone think they might be brave enough to challenge a veto?
The Columbia River Economic Development Council recently invited me to take part in a post-session forum. Senator Annette Cleveland joined in from the majority side, and we walked through our views of how the session went. One of the topics was the Interstate Bridge replacement project; with the session over, I’ve had more time to devote to monitoring that, and will keep you informed.
I’m your senator year-round, not just when the Legislature is in session. I appreciated all the messages that came in during this year’s session — keep them coming!
Yours in service,