Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Official “sine die” of the 2017 session was Sunday, April 23. Few lawmakers were around to witness the adjournment proceedings. That's because floor action finished last Friday and we were released to go home.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee called a special session because lawmakers in the House and Senate have yet to come to an agreement on a two-year state operating budget.
Although we are in Day Five of the 30-day special session, aside from the governor signing (and vetoing) bills sent to him that have met the approval of the House and Senate, it has been a relatively quiet week at the Capitol. I have mostly stayed in the district, catching up on my farm work and meeting with local constituents.
The House will be reconvening Tuesday for a day of floor action, but nothing substantial — mostly necessary housekeeping business. In the meantime, we wait as negotiators on the Education Funding Task Force and budget negotiators continue their talks in hopes of an agreement on education spending and a state operating budget agreement.
Last week in my email update, I listed several “winners and losers” of the 2017 session. You can read that update here. This week, I have a couple more added to the list:
LOSER: Senate Bill 5008 – Buying time under the Federal Real ID Act.
The Federal Real ID Act was passed by Congress after 9/11 to ensure passengers who board U.S. aircraft are who they say they are. Washington state has long been one of only two states that doesn't require proof of legal resident status to get a driver's license. Because of this, our state has not been compliant with the Real ID Act and the last of Washington's federal waivers has run out. Without any legislative action this session, legal residents in our state would not be able to use their standard driver's license for U.S. air travel after December 2017.
A majority of Washington legislators, eager to protect unlawfully present residents who hold a driver's license, didn't choose the easy and most affordable solution to comply with the Real ID Act.
Instead, Republicans in the Senate voted with majority House Democrats to pass Senate Bill 5008 — a new law that would force legal residents to either buy a U.S. passport or purchase an Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) that complies with the Federal Real ID Act.
The EDL costs $78 compared to a standard driver's license at $54. Both driver's licenses are valid for six years. A passport book is $110; a passport card is $30. The passport book and the card are each valid for 10 years. Only the passport book is valid to travel the world over. The passport card is only valid for reentry to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
If you are a legal resident and you NEVER intend to travel by U.S. air carrier, or you do not intend to enter a military base or federal building, it is not necessary to buy a $78 EDL or a $110 passport. Further, if you have a passport book or card, you do NOT need to buy an EDL.
Nearly all House Republicans supported an amendment to Senate Bill 5008 that would have created the most affordable and convenient solution for legal residents. Our amendment simply would have directed the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) to require proof of legal resident status when applying for a Washington driver's license. Those legally present to be here, (including all U.S. citizens, legal immigrants and people with a valid work Visa or Green Card) would be issued a driver's license that would contain a stamp stating “Valid ID for federal purposes.” Any driver's license with that stamp would grant access to the holder for U.S. air travel, entry to military bases and federal buildings. Those not legally present could still pass their driving test and qualify for a Washington state driver's license, but their license would not have the “Valid ID” stamp. A majority of state legislators rejected this idea because they felt the absence of the “Valid ID” stamp would be like a “scarlet letter” on the driver's licenses of every illegal resident.
My House Republican colleagues and I favored the affordable option of the “Valid ID” stamp, because it would not inconvenience or cause financial burdens for legal residents. Unfortunately, our amendment was rejected.
Senate Bill 5008 will affect all citizens in our state who have been using their standard Washington driver's license as proof of identification and travel by U.S. air carrier. Those who do not have a passport book or card will be forced to pay an additional $24 above the standard $54 driver's license fee to get the EDL. That's one reason why I voted NO!
BUT WAIT, IT'S NOT OVER. . .
The newly passed bill does NOT make Washington fully compliant with the Federal Real ID Act. It just buys our state another two-year extension. Why two years? The Feds recognize it will take at least two years for DOL to process the millions of new EDLs for Washington residents seeking them. Keep in mind, with a new president, a Republican-controlled Congress, and possible illegal immigration enforcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, there may be additional changes to the Real ID Act and/or U.S. immigration policy. This would make Senate Bill 5008 a moving target. As it stands now, the Washington Legislature will be revisiting this issue in two years when the new waiver expires.
WINNER: Washington businesses and employers with a new bill-of-rights measure
I was proud to support House Bill 1352, which would create a bill of rights for our state's businesses. The measure would require the state attorney general to conduct a review and submit a report regarding rights and protections of business owners selected for agency enforcement activity. The bill also requires specific state agencies to conduct a review and submit the information to the attorney general. The measure has passed the Legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature.
Not a week goes by that I don't receive a complaint from a business owner in my district who is subject to enforcement action by a state agency. In many cases, the enforcement action is unwarranted, yet the local business must spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on attorneys, accountants and additional staff resources to prove their innocence. I would rather have the burden of proof placed on those overzealous state agencies who are constantly looking for more ways to extract money from small businesses.
I hope this bill leads to meaningful reforms that would reduce the amount of unwarranted state agency enforcement action against job creators in Washington state.
WINNER: Residents of Clark County with passage of my short-line rail measure, House Bill 1504
I'm thrilled that my Growth Management Act (GMA) short-line rail reform measure, House Bill 1504, was delivered to the governor's office on April 23. I hope he signs the bill. If it is not signed within 20 days, the bill automatically becomes law.
House Bill 1504 will ensure that our own Chelatchie Prairie Short-Line Railroad works for us by attracting new manufacturing jobs to Clark County. Several prospective new businesses that require a large parcel of land in excess of 100 acres with access to rail in order to get their goods to market want to locate here. This measure will lift certain GMA restrictions to allow development along these rail lines and bring good, family-wage jobs back to our rural communities.
Recently, I was pleased to be a guest on the Lars Larson radio show to discuss the importance of this bill. You can listen to that interview here.
I want to hear from you!
Although I am back in district, my Olympia office remains open. Shelby Pelon, my legislative assistant, is happy to take your call. Please call my office any time you have questions, comments, concerns or suggestions about legislation, or if you need help navigating a state agency. You will find my contact information below.
Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving and representing you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"