Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2018 legislative session is just over a month away. Scheduled for 60 days, it will begin Monday, Jan. 8. Tomorrow, Dec. 1, marks the beginning of election-year restrictions, including certain communications restrictions, so I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a short update.
Camas mill closure
As most of you have probably already heard, Georgia-Pacific (GP) announced on Nov. 14 that it will restructure the Camas mill facility, permanently shutting down next year the communication papers machine, fine paper converting assets, pulping operations and related equipment. Words cannot truly describe my sadness at the loss of nearly 300 family-wage jobs at the mill.
As I said in a press statement after the announcement, “The paper mill is what built Camas. For generations, the mill has provided a steady paycheck for mortgage payments, car payments, putting food on the table, raising children and creating a stable economy for a better life in our region. Many of my friends, including my brother, have built their careers working at the Camas mill. This is very personal for me, my neighbors and local businesses — many who have relied upon the income which has flowed through our community from the mill.”
The good news is that GP will continue its tissue manufacturing operations at the Camas mill, which support about 140 jobs. Unfortunately, the other operations are being transferred to GP's mill in Port Hudson, Louisiana.
After hearing such news, we all wonder what could have been done differently to prevent these permanent layoffs in Camas. This week, I penned an opinion-editorial that I am sending to our local newspapers on this topic. I encourage you to read it here.
I strongly believe state government must cease the regulatory attacks on our employers, that it must quit treating them like cash cows who can be endlessly milked through excessive taxation, and that we must reduce the enormous hoops it takes to obtain a permit to do business in Washington state. We have to do a better job of attracting employers and incentivizing those who provide jobs in our state to stay here and expand. There are many other states that begin to look much more attractive when we make it nearly impossible for job creators to be profitable in Washington.
As we enter the 2018 legislative session, it's my hope that we can begin to address the issues that make it difficult for employers to stay here and focus on fostering a friendlier business climate.
What to expect in the 2018 session
This year's general election resulted in a shift of power in the state Senate — and essentially, the Legislature. Since Dec. 2012, 24 Republicans and one Democrat who caucuses with Republicans have held the majority in the Washington State Senate. Known as the Majority Coalition Caucus, they have been able to stave off tax increases proposed by Gov. Inslee and majority Democrats in the House, as well as other more “progressive” policies and agendas advocated by the Seattle left.
Last November, 45th District Republican Sen. Andy Hill passed away from lung cancer. Former Sen. Dino Rossi, also a Republican, was temporarily appointed to fill Hill's remaining term until the general election this year. A special election was held on Nov. 7, and a Democrat won that seat, giving Democrats control of the Senate. This means Democrats now control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office, giving them clearance to pass their policies and taxes that require only a simple majority vote. Democrats will now set the agenda for the 2018 session.
My fellow Republican colleagues and I will continue to reach across the aisle to seek bipartisan solutions to the issues that face our state. It just means we will have to work harder to provide better alternatives for our Democratic colleagues.
I expect there will be a push by both Republicans and Democrats to pass a capital budget, which was held up because a fix to the Hirst water decision was not passed in the 2017 session. Republicans will continue to push for a permanent Hirst fix so that landowners with undeveloped properties can build wells.
The majority of sessions since 2012 have focused on education funding. Legislation was adopted in 2017 to fully fund K-12 education under the McCleary court requirements. With that behind us, I expect the focus to shift to other areas of state government that have not received the Legislature's attention. My priorities, however, will remain the same: PROTECTING LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. That includes ensuring we have less government, lower taxes and more freedom.
As we near the 2018 session, I invite your comments, suggestions and ideas about how we can make state government more efficient and responsive to the people it serves. Please contact my office if you have suggestions for legislation or if you just need help navigating state agencies. My contact information is at the end of this email.
2018 is an election year for me and all House members. That means we are under certain restrictions that must be followed regarding constituent communications before and after session. Due to those restrictions, my next email update will not be sent until after the Legislature convenes Jan. 8. Please know I value your communications with me and highly encourage you to contact me about legislation and/or state issues at any time.
It is the greatest honor of my life to serve and represent you. I hope you and your family have a blessed, merry Christmas, and an enjoyable New Year!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"