Jan. 14, 2022
Hello Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this finds you and your family well. The first week of our 2022 session ends today. Being that it’s an even-numbered year, this is a 60-day “short” session; the shorter length (compared to the 105 days allotted by the constitution in odd-numbered years) is geared more toward making adjustments and corrections and less toward producing whole new policies.
Some of the laws created in 2021 are badly in need of correcting, and I’d like to adjust the budget to provide broad tax relief; there’s more on that below. The session runs through March 10.
Public access to the session restricted… again
Not long ago I had reason to think this session would be closer to “normal” than last year’s in terms of public access. Based on conversations happening then, I expected people would once again be able to come and meet with their legislators at the Capitol if they wanted (a few at a time, that is). It also looked like the full Senate would again be meeting and voting in the Senate chamber, instead of how things were done in 2021, when being on the “floor” was generally limited to leaders in the Republican and Democratic caucuses.
Then, less than a week before opening day, the committee that oversees Senate operations decided the restrictions on public access to this session would stay almost the same as in 2021. I understand why, but it’s disappointing because I think legislators make better decisions (or fewer bad choices) when they’re in a better position to listen to the people, and stakeholders, and their colleagues across the aisle.
When most everything is being done remotely, it’s harder to listen, and the poorly-crafted restrictions on law enforcement that came out of last year’s session are a prime example of what can happen.
Priorities for 2022: public safety, affordability, trust
Violent crime in our state recently hit a 25-year high. Legislation passed by the majority in 2021 has made it harder for law enforcement to pursue and detain suspected criminals – and the criminals know it. Other legislation adopted this past year made it a misdemeanor to possess hard drugs, instead of a felony, which makes it a lot harder to steer people into treatment. No wonder people are feeling less safe! I and my Republican colleagues have put a priority on restoring public safety. Correcting the so-called “reforms” imposed on our police agencies is key to that; the Democrats have admitted changes must be made, but will they make the right changes?
My bill to increase the penalty for stealing a firearm (SB 5407) was still on the table from 2021, and I’ve introduced two more pieces of public-safety legislation so far this year. Both focus on domestic violence: SB 5612 would make sure DV victims and survivors of victims have the opportunity to make a statement during sentencing for all domestic-violence convictions. SJR 8209 would amend the state constitution to prohibit bail for people charged with felony domestic violence. Both of these bills stem from my work to pass the Tiffany Hill Act in 2020. I’m happy to report SB 5407 and SB 5612 already are scheduled for public hearings AND votes by the Senate Law and Justice Committee next week!
This week the federal government released new numbers that show the inflation rate is up 7% nationally from last year – and in Washington it’s up 7.6%. People are paying more for everything… particularly food, gas, heat. The majority has raised or created 22 taxes in the past three years, and now the burden of state and local taxes is about $1,000 more per person in our state than the national average. Republicans are supporting a return to affordability, and the path we’ve laid out begins with tax relief and reform.
Last year, in the Senate Republican budget I developed (which balanced with zero tax increases!) I proposed a $250,000 “homestead” exemption from the state property tax. This year it’s become one of the four parts of the Tax Relief & Reform Act of 2022, which I introduced Tuesday. This legislation would reduce every homeowner’s property taxes, eliminate the business tax on manufacturers, and repeal two taxes: the unpopular Wa Cares payroll tax now in effect, and the unnecessary and also-unpopular state income tax (starting with capital gains) approved in 2021. Click here for the latest edition of my Rational Steps policy paper, with more detail about this package.
Another of my bills would make visiting a state park more affordable, by doing away with the Discover Pass and single-day use fees required for parking. Senate Bill 5608 received a committee hearing yesterday; there’s more detail about it and another of my bills here.
Judging from the messages that come into my office, the trust between state government and the people of Washington is broken. It isn’t hard to figure out why. Start with the unemployment-benefits fiasco of 2020; the governor’s shifting “metrics” that dictated restrictions on activities (including in-person school) and killed countless businesses; the passage of taxes no one really wants – and government doesn’t need; and of course, how the state of emergency declared because of the pandemic is quickly approaching day 700! Republicans will work this session to rebuild trust, and a huge part of that involves reforming the state law related to emergency powers.
My bipartisan SB 5039, now known as the BALANCE Act, would give the Legislature the authority to limit all emergency orders made by a governor. It was ignored completely during the 2021 session, and I was told this week that the majority Democrats plan to introduce their own bill on the subject – which means they will probably continue to ignore mine. But knowing the law as well as I do, it’s hard to figure out what they could propose that is as simple and as meaningful as my legislation. The people of our state, who have endured having their lives controlled by one person for nearly 700 days, deserve more than fake reform from the majority that fails to restore the constitutional balance between the branches of government.
This week I also introduced a bill that is about tax reform AND building trust: SB 5831, which is about making state and local taxation more transparent. The nonpartisan Washington Policy Center highlighted it here. And my SB 5620, which is about bringing more accountability to the state’s handling of federal Medicaid dollars, is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday in our Ways and Means Committee.
Expert tells Senate panel: act like COVID is an ‘endemic’, not a ‘pandemic’
In July 2020, long before any COVID vaccine was available, members of the former president’s administration spoke of how Americans would need to “learn to live” with COVID. I’m still not hearing that from Governor Inslee, but an expert from our own state is saying it now.
The governor has frequently referred to research and “modeling” by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. This week the IHME’s Dr. Chris Murray gave a presentation to the Senate health-care committee, and one of the slides (see below) concluded with these words: “Best strategy is to: Change mindset to managing an endemic disease and move out of pandemic mode.”
In other words, the experts cited so often by the governor are now saying that the best strategy is to start treating COVID more like how we treat the flu (i.e. endemic) and stop treating COVID like we have so far in the pandemic. The committee presentation happened Wednesday, and you would think the governor has received a similar update – yet he said nothing during his COVID press conference on Thursday. I wonder why. (See the video here, start at the 1:15:55 mark.)
Another opportunity for public input about taxes
Back in October I took part in the Tax Structure Work Group meetings for our corner of the state, and was glad to see the turnout from others across our legislative district. If you missed them, here’s a new opportunity to be heard: a survey.
Depending on how much time you have, I encourage you to fill out either the short version of the survey (takes approximately 5 minutes) or long version of the survey (takes approximately 30 minutes) . There are also multilingual surveys available in Russian (русский), Spanish (Español), Vietnamese (tiếng Việt), Korean (한국어), Traditional Chinese (正體字), and Simplified Chinese (简化字). The deadline for responding is Jan. 31.
The Tax Structure Work Group is bipartisan, with members from the legislative and executive branches of state government and organizations representing local governments. It will be working on developing policy later this year that I expect will become proposed legislation next year. I have my concerns about the type of tax “reform” this group will come up with, so your input is very important!
Meet my 2022 legislative team
My Legislative Assistant, Amber Hardtke, has been with me since my first term in the Legislature and this is her 23rd session! I always appreciate her hard work and dedication – both to me and to my constituents.
Joining us for this session is Angie Bradford. Angie has 27 years of administrative experience with the Washington State Patrol, and most recently, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program at DCYF. She’s been a fantastic addition to Team Wilson.
I’m so grateful to have such an accomplished and proficient staff. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office. We’re here to serve you!
If you have a question or concern, please contact me by email, letter or phone. To make an appointment for a virtual meeting, please send me an e-mail! Stay safe!
Yours in service,
To read this e-newsletter in other languages, click here to visit my Senate news page and find the “Select Language” menu in the upper left corner!