Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Tomorrow is our first major “cutoff” of the 2015 session. Policy bills that have not passed from their respective committees are considered “dead” for the year for the most part. The deadlines keep us on track toward our goal of finishing the people's business within the allotted 105 days. Our focus will soon turn to the House floor, where we will be debating and voting on House bills that survived the committee process. Click here for a great explanation of the legislative cutoff process.
Last week, the Senate released a bipartisan transportation funding proposal that includes a gas tax increase of up to 11.7 cents a gallon, along with a variety of other fees.
In addition, some of our local cities and some counties would like the authority to impose a local annual vehicle fee of up to $50 and a local sales and use tax of up to 0.2 percent with a vote of the governing board. House Bill 1593 would give them that authority. I have serious reservations about the bill. That's why I held a town hall meeting last Saturday in Battle Ground. The room was packed and most people attending were not in favor of the measure. It was suggested at the meeting that if this authority is given to local governments, voters should have the final say of whether their taxes are increased.
I want to know what you think about this legislation, the proposed transportation revenue package, and the governor's proposed carbon taxes. Please take a moment to fill out my brief survey on these issues. I will keep this survey open for one week to gauge the viewpoints of our district.
Concerns remain about transportation proposal
I support a strong transportation system that relieves traffic and ensures free movement of goods and products to market. However, I've been very concerned by the fact that a lot of your tax money has gone to waste within the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT). That's why I have been a proponent of strong reforms within WSDOT before we ask taxpayers for another dime. As I've said, “Fix it before you fund it!”
Last week, the Senate released a bipartisan transportation tax package that includes several fee increases and an 11.7 cent gas tax increase to provide $15.1 billion in new funding, including $3.7 billion in bond authorizations. It's important to note the new tax package provisions are contingent on Gov. Inslee signing eight reform bills. Debt service is roughly $2.5 billion.
While I am glad to see some preliminary reforms, I am wary of this proposal and have serious reservations about a tax hike on gas. The price of oil is volatile and I expect gas prices to go back up over the life of this 16-year gas tax. Citizens have been loud and clear about their opposition to new taxes. Before presenting new taxes to the public, we need to put serious reforms in place and rebuild trust with the taxpayers of this state.
Be sure to let me know what you think of this transportation proposal in my survey.
Rep. Liz Pike stands up for 13,500 recreational fishermen in 18th District
The Columbian and The Reflector both recently printed a joint opinion editorial I did with the Coastal Conservation Association's former executive director, Bryan Irwin, and Camas recreational fishing enthusiast Dave Patterson regarding House Bill 1660, a measure that would expand recreational fishing in Washington state. You can read the article on my website here.
Although the chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee has not allowed this measure to move forward, and tomorrow is the cutoff for legislation to be reported from their respective committees, I am encouraged that an identical measure is gaining traction in the Senate. Senate Bill 5844 by Sen. Ann Rivers had a public hearing yesterday in the Senate Natural Resources and Parks Committee. Hopefully, it will be sent here to the House for consideration.
House Transportation Committee approves amended teen driver safety bill
At the beginning of the 2015 session, I introduced House Bill 1159 in an effort to reduce highway fatalities and serious injury accidents among teens. As originally written, the measure would have required teen drivers under the age of 19 to display a “New Driver” decal on the back window of their vehicle, which would help to alert other drivers the same as when they encounter a driver's training vehicle.
In Clark County's most recent collision data, young drivers comprise 11 percent of the driving population, yet are dramatically overrepresented in accident and fatality statistics. In our county, 35 percent of all fatalities and 45 percent of all serious injury accidents involve young, inexperienced drivers. It is my hope this legislation will reduce these accidents.
The bill was referred to the House Transportation Committee and had a hearing on Jan. 29. Several committee members had concerns, so I worked with them and members from both sides of the aisle to address those issues and amended the bill. The amended bill includes the following changes from the original bill:
- It would be a Clark County-only pilot project through July 1, 2020;
- Age is reduced to 16- and 17-year-old drivers; and
- Instead of a $250 infraction, the penalty would be 20 hours of community service.
The bill as amended passed the House Transportation Committee on Monday and, hopefully, will be headed to the House floor for a vote.
Passed the House this morning – House Bill 1157: Quick title service fees
I am pleased to report that the House of Representatives today unanimously passed House Bill 1157. This is a measure I introduced that would allow licensing subagents to keep a portion of fees collected when a “Quick Title” is issued. A Quick Title is a certificate of ownership for a vehicle or boat that a citizen can get immediately.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"