E-Newsletter: Session begins, with critical issues to solve

Jan. 13, 2023

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

A couple of weeks ago I sent a postcard to households in the “new” 17th Legislative District, to introduce myself and explain how the boundaries of all 49 of Washington’s legislative districts had been changed through a voter-approved process meant to protect equal representation throughout our state. In case you didn’t receive one, here’s a link. And if you are wondering why I sent you this e-newsletter, there’s an explanation below.

The 2023 legislative session began this past Monday – which was the second Monday of January, the date specified in our state constitution for the Legislature to convene. In odd-numbered years the constitution allows us to meet for 105 days. That’s because we will need to adopt three new budgets (operating, capital, transportation) to cover the next two years, and developing those budgets takes extra time.

I’m happy to report that for the first time since the 2020 session, legislators will be back to meeting in person, at least primarily. Committees may still offer citizens a remote-testimony option, which is nice when traveling to Olympia is a challenge, but I believe being able to meet in person with other legislators and our constituents can’t help but produce better policies than some of what we saw in 2021 and 2022. Keep reading for how this also means the Senate Page Program is back!

This is my ninth session, and third as Republican leader on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. That committee prepares the operating and capital budgets, and my role makes me one of the budget negotiators. Also, I’ve returned to the Senate Law and Justice Committee. I hope the legislation we take up will include bills to deal with the serious wave of violent crime and property crime that has been sweeping our state.

The TVW network is Washington’s version of C-SPAN, carrying gavel-to-gavel coverage of legislative sessions. It’s one of the best tools available to citizens who want to keep track of what’s happening at the Capitol. This week, I was a guest on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program, for an early discussion about the budgets our Ways and Means Committee will be developing. Click here or on the image for my portion of the interview.

Five critical issues that are ideal for bipartisan collaboration
In 2021 I began sharing problem-solving ideas in a series of policy papers called “Rational Steps for a Better Washington.” The first of those for 2023 identifies five front-burner issues that Republicans and Democrats should be able to work on together:

  • the decline in homeownership and lack of affordable homes;
  • the drug-overdose epidemic;
  • the shortage of police and the crime wave sweeping our state;
  • how the homeless population is growing in our state while decreasing nationally; and
  • the struggles our students are having post-pandemic.

It offers data to support my conclusion that on each of these issues, we – as a state, which means as a government – must do better. The link to this latest paper is here, and I hope you can find a few minutes to consider it.

Is the discussion about emergency-powers reform done before it even begins?
I hoped the Legislature would finally, this session, pick up where it left off in 2019 on reforming our state’s emergency-powers law. In December I “prefiled” a bill similar to the measures I had introduced in 2021 and 2022, to give the legislative branch more authority to review and limit emergency proclamations from the governor.

Amazingly, it seems the Democrats are already viewing my proposal, Senate Bill 5063 – which has a Democratic senator as the lead co-sponsor – as “dead” for the year. Click here for what I was told. But I’ve put a lot into this fight in the past two-plus years, and it’s not over yet.

My bills include measures on public safety and affordability
Senate Republicans are focused this year on three priorities: public safety, affordability and K-12 education. The latest results from a prominent public-opinion survey indicate our priorities match up well with what people in our state think.

The list of measures I’ve introduced is 17 bills long as of today, with more coming. Here are a few I want you to know about:

  • Firearm theft (Senate Bill 5049) – There’s a lot of talk about “gun violence” but little said about how those violent crimes are committed with guns that were stolen. If fewer firearms were stolen there would obviously be fewer firearms on the street for criminals to acquire. This bill would increase the penalty for those convicted of firearm theft, which I have to believe would have a deterrent effect. I’ve introduced this bill in past years but for reasons that aren’t clear, Democrats have blocked it at one point or another. If people who steal guns have to spend longer behind bars for their crime, where’s the problem?
  • Spending limit (SB 5359) – When families know they have only a certain amount of money to spend, they prioritize. It’s time for state government to get back to thinking that same way, and here’s why: the 2023-25 operating budget proposed by Gov. Inslee came in at more than $70 billion. That’s a jaw-dropper considering it represents a 9.8% spending increase over the current budget, which itself represents a 22% spending increase!The working people of our state can’t continue to afford such huge spending increases. After all, the growth in median wages over the past 10 years is less than half the growth of state spending, as represented by the governor’s proposal. Let’s put a responsible cap on spending and give the excess (after making the necessary deposit to the rainy-day fund) back to the people as property-tax relief. That’s one way to get at the affordability crisis in our state.
  • Third bridge study (SB 5012) – It’s clear to me (and probably to you) that replacing the Interstate Bridge between Vancouver and Portland isn’t going to be enough over the long term. A third bridge to go along with the I-5 and I-205 bridges seems inevitable, and we should try to get ahead of that.SB 5012 would simply require the Legislature’s joint transportation committee to conduct a study of a third bridge between southwest Washington and Oregon. I proposed the same idea in 2022, and managed to secure $300,000 in the supplemental transportation budget adopted by the Senate for a third-bridge study. Then the money was yanked when Senate and House negotiators came up with a compromise version of that budget. This year my bill has a Democratic co-sponsor (Sen. Cleveland), and I hope that helps its chance of success.

Seeking students to sponsor as Senate pages
The program that allows students to work a week with legislators as a “page” during our sessions was suspended during the pandemic. I’m glad to report the program is back, because it’s a delight to interact with the young people who come from communities across Washington for a unique civics lesson (and a week’s worth of pay).

Click here for general information about the program and how to apply, as well as the exception being made this year only for older teens who missed out during the two years that the program was on hold.

Why did you receive this e-newsletter?
Generally speaking, the people who receive my e-news (and the occasional printed version) subscribed directly with my office, or they reside in what is now the 17th Legislative District and supplied an email address on their voter registration.

While my political views lean conservative, it is my duty – and honor – to represent everyone in my district regardless of any political affiliation they may have. If you don’t wish to receive legislative news from me in the future, the easiest way is to tell me at lynda.wilson@leg.wa.gov – and in the meantime, I promise not to bombard your inbox.

I welcome your comments on anything I share, in an e-newsletter or on my Senate website. Here’s one of the emails I received after my postcard recently went out to the district, from someone in east Clark County who I’ll call “M.”

Dear Senator Wilson

I received your flyer where I learned you are the state senator for Clark county. Obviously I was sorry to learn you are a Republican, which means you will not represent my interests. I am for giving the middle and low classes a break, fight for climate change legislation and support Gov. Inslee in his goals to limit greenhouse gasses, public transportation and other sensible priorities. However, I do not expect you support these basic goals and instead you probably want to tax the low and middle class, give tax breaks to the rich and support dirty air.

So, sorry. I do not think you represent me. I will have to wait for the next election and try to elect a senator to replace you.

My reply to “M” went like this:

Well, you might be surprised! I have been fighting for tax relief for the last few years…specifically, I have run a bill to exempt the first $250,000 of assessed value of your home. I’ve also supported bills reducing the sales tax, gas tax, repealing of diaper taxes, and removing the taxes on wheelchairs to name a few. I actually passed a bill and is now law that removed the sales tax on feminine hygiene products. Feminine hygiene products are the number one product that homeless women need and can’t afford. I hoped that repealing that tax would help that. I’ve worked diligently (and continue to do so) on domestic violence issues with our county prosecutors and City of Vancouver investigative officers and the Clark Co Sheriff’s Office.

I have also worked on the committee for 6 years on the replacement of the I-5 bridge. And of course, I want clean air!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

There’s a difference between disagreeing and being disagreeable. Too often these days the public discourse sinks into a sort of standoff where people remain in their philosophical corners. It’s easy to lose sight of the idea that more unites us than divides us. “M” and I may agree on more things than either of us can know from an e-mail exchange.

As former Washington Gov. Dan Evans once put it, there are “no Republican schools or Democrat highways, no liberal salmon or conservative parks.” Meaning the people of southwest Washington (and the state as a whole) have a lot of common interests, and we tend to agree on the “what” – what needs fixing, or what at least deserves our attention (like my list of five issues above). The challenge is the “how” part, and there will be much said about that during this year’s legislative session. I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government.

Yours in service,

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