Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are now at the halfway mark of the scheduled 105-day legislative session. The focus is now on the House floor where we have considered and passed more than 100 bills since Monday.
On Tuesday, majority Democrats in the House passed legislation to increase the hourly minimum wage to $12 (House Bill 1355) and to mandate paid sick leave for employers with four or more workers (House Bill 1356). I voted against both measures because of the irreparable harm this legislation would cause to thousands of mom and pop businesses that make up the backbone of every Washington community. I am especially concerned the minimum wage hike would price out entry-level jobs for young people.
On the House floor, I spoke of my son, Richard, who began his career in an entry-level minimum wage job washing dishes, but worked hard, built confidence and advanced to become a chef in a Portland restaurant. These are opportunities I fear would shrink for other young people if the minimum wage goes to $12 an hour. And let's remember, Washington already has the highest minimum wage in the nation. You can listen to my floor speech here.
Please read on for a report on my recent town hall meeting in Battle Ground, an update of my bills which survived the committee cutoff, and to see what The Columbian editorial staff is saying about my legislation to clear the backlog of permit applications in the Columbia Gorge.
As always, please call, write or e-mail my office with any questions related to the topics in this e-newsletter or other legislation. It is my greatest honor to serve you!
My thoughts from the Feb. 14 Battle Ground town hall meeting
As you may remember, I held a joint town hall meeting with city officials from Battle Ground on Feb. 14 to discuss a city and county taxing authority proposal to fund local transportation projects. House Bill 1593 would have modified the authority of cities and counties, under certain circumstances, 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. Battle Ground city officials were in favor of the measure to fix local roads. But I wanted to see what the citizens of Battle Ground thought of the proposal.
Most citizens who attended, about 45 or so, were against granting more authority to cities to impose sales tax and an increase in car tabs without first asking voters. Only two citizens were in favor of House Bill 1593.
An online survey I conducted came to the same conclusion. Nearly 70 percent of the hundreds who responded were against the measure. Not quite 15 percent said they would support the bill only if voters got the final say. You can see the results here.
Since current statute already grants cities the authority to increase car tabs and sales tax with a vote of the people, I see no reason to support House Bill 1593 at this time. However, many in the audience recognized the structural problems with how the state pays for roads and that Olympia is taking too much money from residents in the form of sales and property taxes and not returning enough back to cities.
I acknowledged to the crowd that over the past several decades, the Legislature has imposed numerous new unfunded mandates onto cities and counties. This has resulted in less revenue for local governments to pay for basic infrastructure needs such as transportation. Unfunded mandates include implementation of the Growth Management Act, the Shorelines Act, the Critical Areas Ordinance, and most recently, many new storm water rules and regulations promulgated by the Department of Ecology. All of these unfunded mandates dramatically increase costs on local government, further constraining their budgets. My solution is to remove some of these unfunded, burdensome rules and regulations. I've introduced several bills to address this over the past three sessions.
Pike bills awaiting House floor action
I'm pleased to report that four of my prime-sponsored bills are making progress:
- House Bill 1159 – Teen Driving Safety Act – This measure was amended to create a pilot project in Clark Co. requiring 16- and 17-year-old drivers to affix a new driver emblem to their rear window, alerting other drivers they are sharing the roadway with inexperienced drivers. Young drivers comprise 11 percent of driving population, yet in Clark County they are involved in 35 percent of all auto fatalities and 45 percent of all serious injury accidents. The intent of this bill is to reduce these horrendous statistics.
- House Bill 1951 – Clarifies the use of unmarked vehicles by local law enforcement agencies. This bill is supported by all six of my local law enforcement chiefs in the 18th District, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
- – Would create a Columbia River Gorge Task force made up of Washington and Oregon legislators to address important transportation and infrastructure needs significant to both states in the region. This is a similiar bill to Oregon Rep. John Huffman's legislation.
- House Bill 1157 – Quick title fees. This bill 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.This bill passed unanimously, 97-0, from the House of Representatives on Feb. 19 and is now in the Senate Transportation Committee.
The Columbian endorses Pike's Gorge Commission legislation
In conjunction with working with my friend from Oregon, Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, we have been trying to get temporary funding from both states to help relieve the Columbia River Gorge Commission's backlog of unprocessed land-use applications. I introduced House Bill 1453 that would provide Washington's portion of these funds to streamline the permitting process. This bill was voted from the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 19, but it was directed to the General Government Operations Committee where it awaits action.
This is a really important piece of legislation because it would move many projects forward and stimulate our local economy, while protecting the pristine nature of the gorge.
Even The Columbian recognizes the importance of advancing my bill. In a recent column entitled: “A Majestic Mission: Columbia River Gorge Commission must be funded adequately to preserve N.W. gem,” the newspaper called for lawmakers to act on the bill.
This is what The Columbian said: “On this side of the river, state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, has pushed for additional temporary funding that will allow the commission to relieve a backlog of permit requests in Klickitat County. Because that county never signed on to the federal scenic area act, even the simplest requests there — such as for a patio or a shed — can take a year to work through the system. Considering that Pike's bill includes safeguards for taxpayers to ensure that the work gets done, lawmakers would be wise to adequately fund the commission and approve the additional spending.” You can read the full article here.
I'm not giving up on this important bill. My plan is to continue to advocate that House Bill 1453 be included as a budget proviso. I submitted that request yesterday.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"