Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Hello from Olympia, and welcome to the sixth week of the 2013 legislative session.
Common Sense Alternatives for the CRC
I received a lot of mail in response to my skepticism regarding the Columbia River Crossing project. An overwhelming number of constituents are equally concerned. I will continue to stand strong for common sense transportation alternatives that are financially sustainable. There is no reason to accept the current CRC plan that will benefit a few at the expense of many. Please stay in touch and tell your friends and neighbors to remain engaged.
The Washington Growth Management Act (GMA) Plan is the root cause of most of our transportation woes. GMA prevents businesses from locating in our communities and forces our neighbors to travel 40 miles or more to their jobs.
GMA's cookie cutter “one size fits all” plan causes pollution, unnecessary wear and tear on our highways and reduces our quality of life. We can fix this if we all stand strong together!
Along these lines I support House Bill 1619, which would suspend GMA in counties with significant and persistent unemployment. By suspending these onerous regulations, our most fragile rural economies will have a fighting chance to attract new employers so we can get folks back to work again.
House Democrat Transportation Proposal
This week House Democrats proposed a Transportation package that would add a 10-cent per gallon increase to gasoline purchased in our state. This means the majority party wants to charge Washington drivers the highest gas tax in the nation at nearly 48-cents-per-gallon, more than doubling it since 2003. When you include federal taxes, Washington drivers would be paying 66 cents in state and federal taxes for every gallon of gas they purchase. I am currently opposed to a gas tax increase but I would like to hear from you on this important matter. Please send me an email and let me know if you say yes or no to a 10-cent per gallon gas tax.
The debate around the transportation budget needs to begin with reforms – not higher taxes and a project list. House Republican reforms would create long-term jobs, the House Democrat proposal would provide short term jobs. Some of OUR reforms include 90-day permitting and suspending GMA in counties with persistent unemployment.
Our state's record on transportation efficiency and accountability is poor and it needs to be addressed. The reality is people can't afford more at the pump right now – especially those out of work or who have to commute long distances because their communities have been decimated by the economy and land-use restrictions.
Before we even entertain the idea of a gas tax increase, we want to talk about transportation and economic reforms.
A victory for my storm water pilot project
Last month I introduced legislation to authorize an alternative storm water management approach that would effectively and efficiently achieve state and federal requirements.
In a letter dated Feb. 21, 2013, Washington State Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon agreed to my approach and said the agency would work to implement the goals and outcomes as outlined in my original legislation, House Bill 1237.
This is a big win for Clark County government. I was very glad and also honored to receive this hand-delivered letter directly from our new Ecology director. This letter basically allows Clark County to begin working with Ecology right now to develop the pilot program outlined in my bill. We don't have to take our chances with this bill being killed in a Rule Committee in any of the fiscal committees or in one of the chambers. It's about the best outcome we could have hoped for.
HB 1237 was referred to the House Environment Committee chaired by Rep. Dave Upthegrove. In written comments he stated the positive outcome for Clark County's approved storm water pilot program was a direct result of my hard work on the issue. He said:
“This commitment from the Department is a direct result of your tenacity on the issue. Some legislators and stakeholders had concerns about the precedent set by the legislation and the risk that the legislation would be amended once it left committee, so the bill did not advance out of committee. However, your introduction of the bill and hard work on the issue has resulted in the same outcome as if the bill had passed. I wish you and Clark County the best in complying with storm water requirements in the most cost-effective and environmentally sound way.”
House Bill 1563 would allow local governments to sell, lease or exchange property to organizations which develop low-income housing at prices that are less than fair market value. While on the surface it may seem like a good idea to allow property to be sold for use as low-income housing, I heard from many port officials and port commissioners in my district who vehemently opposed this bill. I agree with them. There was a good amendment by Rep. Angel that would have exempted Ports from HB 1563. I supported this amendment which failed. I testified in Committee that any type of housing is absolutely incompatible with Port property. I will do what I can to stop this bill in its present form as it moves through the process.
House Bill 1044 would mandate that all insurance plans offered in Washington state include abortions. This says to individuals, employers and health insurers that health plans in our state must include abortion coverage – regardless of their religious beliefs. We heard this bill in the House chambers this morning. As you know, I am opposed to abortion. HB 1044 is a direct assault on religious liberty, forcing those of us who are morally opposed to abortion to help subsidize it through our insurance premiums. I voted no on this bill, but it passed out of the House. If this bill becomes law it could jeopardize federal healthcare funding and Washington will be the only state in the nation to force everyone to purchase health insurance which includes abortion services. I will do what I can to stop this bill in its present form as it moves through the process.
House Bill 1809: While I am very respectful of preserving and respecting our state's Cultural resources, I am opposed to this bill and voted against it this past week in Committee because it mandates notifications of Indian artifacts as part of the SEPA process. This is not the purpose of the SEPA process. Unfortunately it passed out of committee.
House Bill 1275: I voted against this bill in Committee because it allows the Department of Ecology to raise waste water fees on cities and counties. Our small cities are already struggling and their citizens do not want to keep paying rate increases on their water and sewer bills. This is a particular problem for the City of Washougal. I will do what I can to stop this bill in its present form as it moves through the process.
As always, it is an honor to serve as your Representative. Please contact me and let me know how I can best serve you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"