E-Newsletter: Halfway point of session is around the corner, and…

Feb. 24, 2023

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

I’m glad to be the Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, but also glad this week is over. Please keep reading for why.

A quick update on the police-pursuit issue from a week ago: it was good to see The Columbian editorial today that sides with those of us – both Republicans and Democrats – who have called for a real fix of the 2021 law that pretty much prohibits law-enforcement officers from pursuing suspected criminals. Here’s how I put it on my Senate Facebook page:

“The Columbian has it right — farming the police-pursuit issue out to a work group or task force would be the wrong move. Criminals have taken full advantage of the restrictions that were put on police pursuits in 2021, which is why we need to reform the law this session, not 2 years from now. But you should know HB 1363 is no longer as anti-criminal as the original version – majority Democrats have watered it down so police STILL could not pursue car thieves. Even so, if that bill comes over to the Senate there’s a chance we can put the stronger language back in, and put some fear back into the criminals.”

One more update: the location of the first of the two March 18 town-hall meetings has changed. Instead of being at Camas City Hall from 10 to 11 a.m., Rep. Paul Harris and Rep. Kevin Waters and I will report (and listen) to constituents in the conference room at the Port of Camas-Washougal. That’s at 24 S ‘A’ Street in Washougal. The second town hall, from 1 to 2 p.m. that Saturday, is in the Hegewald Center in Stevenson from 1 to 2 p.m. Please save the date!

Ukraine flag
Shortly after the Russian president’s unprovoked, full-scale military invasion of Ukraine began a year ago, the state Senate took time to publicly condemn the invasion and speak in support of the Ukrainian people and the many Ukrainian-Americans in our state and nation. We did so again today through Senate Resolution 8620, which I was proud to co-sponsor. While returning to my Senate office it was wonderful to look up and see the flag of Ukraine flying proudly next to the American flag and the Washington state flag in the state Capitol’s flag circle. I have the deepest respect for the people of Ukraine who are standing so resolutely in defense of their homeland.

Fiscal committees wrap up; unpopular anti-firearm bill slips through
Every Senate bill that was moved ahead by the Senate policy committees before their deadline hit a week ago – and would result in a fiscal change as well as a policy change – was referred either to our committee or the Senate Transportation Committee. Nothing against the members of the Transportation committee, but I assure you, more of those bills came to Ways and Means, by far… and that’s on top of the bills that had been referred directly to us.

Without counting I’d guess we ended up handling 150 bills or so this week alone, before our own deadline for moving legislation forward arrived at the close of business today. It meant a lot of hearings, and even more amendments and discussions, before voting. Next week we will be “on the floor” of the Senate chamber, debating and voting on bills that have cleared all the necessary committee hurdles. Next Wednesday is the halfway point of this year’s 105-day session.

To be clear, many of the bills that have moved forward from Ways and Means were simple and straightforward, and caused little if any dissension within the committee. An example is SB 5341, prime-sponsored by Republican Sen. Ron Muzzall of Whidbey Island, which would create a location-based branding and promotion program for Washington food and agricultural products.

But then, we also had bills that are complicated, controversial, or both – and some really illustrated the philosophical differences between Republicans and majority Democrats.

An example is SB 5078, which is referred to as the “firearm industry duties” bill. I held out hope that it wouldn’t find enough support among the members of Ways and Means, as more than three weeks had passed since the committee had the public hearing on the bill. Sometimes a lag like that is a sign. But three weeks also is plenty of time to line up the necessary support in committee, and clearly, that’s the direction things had tipped.

With little notice today, the chair of the committee brought the bill up for a vote, a few of us offered comments, then – bang! The roll was called, the gavel came down and SB 5078 had moved a step closer to becoming law… which is highly unfortunate. My office had received many thousands of emails on this bill, all in opposition.

The state Office of Financial Management, which is essentially the governor’s budget office, acknowledges there are more than 3,000 federally licensed firearm dealers in Washington… and likely many more sellers engaged in sales through gun shows and swap meets… and likely many others engaged in the manufacture, importation, or marketing of firearms. “This bill would impact a large number of companies and individuals,” the agency admits.

The term “impact” is an understatement. While the bill was amended in Ways and Means to remove the language that would allow what’s called a “private right of action” (meaning lawsuits filed by citizens) SB 5078 still would authorize “investigation and enforcement” by the state attorney general.

Considering the AG is who requested the bill in the first place, this modified version of SB 5078 would still mean trouble for those in our state’s firearm industry. All Republicans on the committee recognize that, and opposed this infringement of a right that is found not only in the U.S. constitution but also – and with stronger wording – in Washington’s constitution. But Democrats, being in the majority, outvoted us.

The reason SB 5078 even came before our budget committee, after being passed by the relevant policy committee (Law and Justice), is because implementing it would cost an estimated $6.6 million every budget cycle! It looks from the fiscal paperwork that goes with the bill that the cost would come from hiring 10-plus more people in the attorney general’s office… presumably, enforcers.

Children's Day
If you are familiar with the long-running, classic “Peanuts” cartoon strip you might also know the line about how “every day is children’s day.” The Legislature DOES have an official Children’s Day, typically on the Presidents Day holiday – that way the kids and grandkids of legislators have a chance to visit because they’re not in school. This past Monday my daughter Cerisse and two of my grandchildren, Everett and Daphne, came up from Clark County and saw why I’m not able to be around them as much at this time of year. But as you can see, it didn’t take too long for the youngsters to decide they’d had enough, and that it was time for a break… under the guest chairs!

Wear pink on Wednesday!
This coming Wednesday I will sponsor and the Senate will adopt SR 8617, recognizing the month of March as Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Governor Inslee has graciously agreed to issue a proclamation the same day, to encourage others to join us in this special observance.

Here’s part of the email I sent my Senate colleagues today:

“Throughout my breast-cancer treatment, I was so moved by the many of you who showed your solidarity with me by wearing pink every Wednesday. I invite you to join me once again in wearing pink that day!

I extend the same invitation to you, because so many of us either know or will know someone whose life will be changed by a breast-cancer diagnosis.


I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government.

Yours in service,

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