E-Newsletter: What are you thinking?

Jan. 21, 2022

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

This past week’s e-news mentioned how our 2022 session is limited to 60 days. The pace of a “short” session like this is faster, understandably, because the deadlines for acting on legislation come up sooner. The first of these “cutoff” dates is less than two weeks away – so legislators are working (sometimes frantically) to arrange for public hearings on their bills.

Two of the bills I’ve introduced this session, plus another carried over from 2021, have already received committee hearings. Of those, two (SB 5607 and SB 5612) have already been endorsed by the respective committees.

I’m happy to report two more of my bills are scheduled for hearings next week. One is the Tax Relief & Reform Act of 2022 (SB 5769), which would reduce every homeowner’s property taxes, eliminate the business tax on manufacturers, repeal the unpopular Wa Cares payroll tax, and also repeal the unnecessary and also-unpopular state income tax. It will come before our Business, Financial Services & Trade Committee on Tuesday. The second is SB 5822, to allow insurance coverage of biomarker testing (related to cancer treatment); the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee will take testimony on it a week from today.

Since my report last week I introduced SB 5864, which would basically allow people who lost their jobs due to the governor’s vaccine mandate to qualify for unemployment benefits. Normally, people who are terminated from a job and are seeking new employment are eligible for benefits; the governor’s decision to forbid benefits for people who became unemployed due to his mandate seemed overly harsh.

Let me know what you think!
Considering how nearly 500 bills have already been introduced in the Senate alone this session, and the first round of deadlines for committee action is just on the horizon, this is a good time to ask your opinion about some of the legislation that is before us and a couple of other topics of interest to our 17th District. Click here to go to an online survey that should take just a couple of minutes to complete and submit. I look forward to your responses!

I also appreciate all the emails that have come in since our session began 11 days ago. The number-one topic so far – and by far – is Second Amendment rights. Second place goes to the bill to make 5 years old the minimum age for compulsory school attendance (SB 5537), which suggests government knows a child’s needs better than parents. It received a committee hearing this week and may move forward from the K-12 education committee next Friday. Let me know if you have questions or concerns about a bill, using the contact information at the end of this report!

Majority finally files bill about emergency powers… and it’s underwhelming
For more than a year I’ve tried to get at least a public hearing on my bipartisan proposal to reform the state’s emergency-powers law (SB 5039). This week – with no input from any Republican – two Democratic senators filed a bill that may represent the limit of what the majority party is willing to do on emergency powers. Frankly, it‘s not much – practically nothing – but even so, SB 5909 has been scheduled for a committee hearing Jan. 28.

To explain the fundamental difference between their bill and mine, I’ll use the example of the $5 “donation” for state parks that is automatically attached to vehicle and vessel registrations. Have you ever thought to yourself that you should get to opt IN when it comes to the $5 fee? That’s what my SB 5039 would do: all emergency orders would expire after 30 days unless the legislative branch opts IN, basically saying “yes, we agree that order should continue.”

As you know, people have to purposely opt OUT of paying the $5 for state parks when they buy license tabs. This new Democratic bill takes the same approach – meaning the emergency orders that control the people’s lives the most (closing schools and businesses, lockdowns, vaccine mandates, etc.) would just continue indefinitely unless the legislative branch opts OUT. And under SB 5909, opting out means ALL FOUR legislative-caucus leaders must agree to end an order. Also notably missing from the majority’s bill is any provision allowing the full Legislature, while in session, to ever vote to end an order!

If this partisan bill became law tomorrow, an order that prohibits activities could be ended by the legislative branch only if the leaders of both Democratic caucuses decide to oppose (or overrule) the Democratic governor.

If you believe in the idea of checks and balances between the branches of government, the way we learned it in civics class… which approach sounds like the more meaningful check?

It’s amazing to think the majority needed more than a year to decide a change in the emergency-powers law is in order, and define the change it’s willing to support. Obviously the committee chair doesn’t want my bill to get any attention, or it also would be scheduled for a public hearing next week. I’m glad they’ve finally brought something to the table, but unfortunately, the majority’s alternative would not provide the real reform we need.

Yours in service,

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