Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Good government transparency bill passes House
Now that we are past the deadline for all House bills to be voted out of our chamber, I'm happy to report two of my prime sponsored government-reform bills are on their way to the Senate.
In this newsletter, I'm highlighting passage of House Bill 1606, which would require all Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs) in Washington to hold public hearings to allow for citizen input prior to raising car tab fees, or other new taxes, that would be imposed either without a vote or with a public vote.
A TBD has taxing authority, with voter approval, to raise local sales tax up to 0.2 percent, increase annual vehicle tab fees up to $100 on vehicle license renewals, levy excess property taxes for a period of up to one year and charge tolls, subject to legislative authorization if on state routes.
A TBD also has taxing authority to implement, without a vote of the people, an increase in annual vehicle tab fees up to $50 on vehicle license renewals, and impose transportation impact fees on commercial and industrial development.
In January, I received emails from constituents concerned about an upcoming vote by their city's TBD to raise taxes. Citizens were concerned that no official public hearing had been scheduled.
I checked online and discovered that indeed, no official public hearing on this matter was included on city council agendas. I also checked in with my Olympia transportation policy experts and we discovered that public hearings were not required by state law, ahead of these tax votes. I realized that if this was happening in my district, it was probably happening in other parts of the state.
I sprung into action, drafted the legislation, pulled together bipartisan co-sponsors and worked hard to get the bill moving. The House of Representatives certainly agrees with this proposed statewide policy. HB 1606 passed out of the House Transportation Committee with a unanimous 24-0 vote on Feb. 8, followed by another unanimous vote, 98-0, by the entire House of Representatives on March 1.
Some may argue official public hearings are not needed. I disagree. There is an important distinction between “citizen communication” time on an agenda and an official public hearing on a specific topic. Requiring an official public hearing prior to a vote to raise taxes is good policy for all government across the state. Official public hearings certainly raise a heightened sense of awareness for our citizens on important matters about to take place. For the amount of taxes our citizens already pay to support government, I believe they deserve no less.
Every dollar that government spends is a dollar earned by hardworking citizens. Our citizens who earned those dollars ought to have a say in how those funds are spent. It is my job to respond to the concerns of the citizens in my legislative district and give them the best representation possible. I will continue to do this.
If this measure is signed into law, it will benefit citizens all over Washington state, not just in Clark County. Elected officials should never shy away from conducting official public hearings, which are an important opportunity to provide open and transparent government to the citizens we serve.
It was my honor to host Rachel Case of Camas earlier this week in Olympia. Rachel is interested in politics and job-shadowed me for a day while we were voting on bills on the House floor. She is a student at WSU Vancouver and is planning a career in broadcasting.
Columbia River Crossing revival bill gains House passage, despite testimony against
I am very disappointed a measure which could possibly resurrect the failed Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project passed out of the House this week, 60-38. I voted against it. During floor debate, I expressed concern that House Bill 2095 is a rear-view mirror approach that would do nothing more than lead to further congestion and millions more of your tax dollars thrown onto the scrap heap of the dead CRC project. I invite you to listen to the floor debate here.
I believe we need forward-thinking solutions. I outlined my plan for I-5 corridor congestion relief in this opinion-editorial in The Reflector.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"