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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Over the past six years, we've had some hard-fought wins and some tough losses, but with every vote, I've worked to uphold those promises and remember the great people of the 18th District who gave me this opportunity to be their voice in Olympia. This year, during the 60-day session that ended on time March 8, there were both wins and losses. I'd like to take a few minutes to provide this update on the 2018 legislative session, including the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good. . .
Hirst solution and capital budget projects
Within the first two weeks of the 2018 legislative session, which began Jan. 8, we reached agreement on a Hirst water solution and passed a capital budget. As you may recall, the capital budget stalled because the Legislature failed to pass a Hirst fix in 2017. For background, please read my Aug. 7, 2017 opinion editorial: A permanent Hirst fix and a capital budget — Washington citizens deserve both!
The Hirst fix, Senate Bill 6091, grandfathers in existing wells and removes the mandate the state Supreme Court imposed on counties to find legal, available water. This is a big win for property rights in Washington state.
The capital budget (and a subsequent supplemental capital budget passed later in the session) provided funding for a number of important projects in our district, including:
- $10 million for improvements to N.E. 10th Avenue in the Ridgefield area.
- $5.6 million for Clark College's North County satellite.
- $1 million for the Columbia River Trail in Washougal.
- $750,000 for replacement of the Washougal Steamboat Landing Dock.
- $750,000 for an outdoor recreation complex in Ridgefield.
- $500,000 for Phase IV of the Paradise Point water supply system in Ridgefield.
- $412,000 for the Yacolt Railroad building and museum project.
- $250,000 for the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad maintenance building in Yacolt.
- $124,000 for expansion of the Ridgefield Police Station.
No carbon tax and no capital gains income tax
Less than 24 hours after the Legislature convened in January, Gov. Jay Inslee used his State of the State Address in the House chamber to promote passage of a new tax on energy, also known as the carbon tax. The governor's policy staff said it would increase electricity prices by 5 percent, natural gas prices by 11 percent and motorists would pay as much as 30 cents a gallon more at the gas pump. Little of the tax revenue would have gone toward carbon reduction. Most of the $3.3 billion carbon tax would have gone into beefing up the state's general fund.
In addition to the carbon tax, House Democrats passed a 7 percent capital gains income tax from the House Finance Committee, despite Republican opposition. Washington voters have rejected a state income tax 10 times!
These taxes were proposed at a time when the state revenue has a surplus and is expected to take in an additional $1.3 billion over the next four years.
In the end, neither of these taxes passed, which is a victory for Washington taxpayers. However, it signaled even in good times, the appetite of majority Democrats in Olympia to take more of your hard-working dollars remains strong.
Other wins. . .
- New investments were made to improve our state's mental health facilities and system.
- Steps were taken to address the opioid crisis, including behavioral health treatment, housing, employment and other needs.
- We defeated a low carbon fuel standard bill that would have increased the cost of gasoline.
The bad. . .
Gimmicks used to circumvent the state constitution
When I and other state representatives took the oath of office, we promised to uphold the state constitution. Somehow, some of my fellow lawmakers forgot that part of their oath, using different methods on at least two occasions to attempt to circumvent the state constitution.
The supplemental operating budget, Senate Bill 6032, which I voted against, increases spending by a whopping 16 percent over the last biennium. In order to pass this budget, $700 million that should have gone into the state's Budget Stabilization Account (BSA), also known as the rainy-day fund, was spent using some clever budget trickery. The majority party's maneuver may not specifically violate the law, but it certainly tests the spirit of the state constitution, under which this money was supposed to be protected. State economists tell us we face an 88 percent chance of a downturn sometime within the next five years. Would you spend down your savings account if you knew tough times are ahead?
I was also very disappointed about the constitutionally dubious passage of the law enforcement “reform” package, House Bill 3003 and Initiative 940. On a nearly partisan vote, the House and Senate voted to pass HB 3003, which is, most likely, an unconstitutional attempt to amend a proposed law that does not yet exist (I-940). I also voted against this proposal. How do you legally amend a law that is not even on the books?
Other disappointments. . .No meaningful property tax relief
Despite $1.3 billion in new revenue, the Legislature provided little property tax relief. Senate Bill 6614 provides a one-time property tax cut in 2019, which relates to $90 on a $300,000 home. We had enough money to provide substantially more relief, but Democrats refused to allow our bills to move forward that would have implemented property tax relief this year.
The ugly. . .
The 2018 session had a different tone than those of the recent past. For the first time since 2012, our Democratic colleagues controlled all the bases of power in the Legislature — the House, the Senate and the governor's office. Republicans were completely shut out of the budget process and only shown the final agreement a few hours before we were to vote on it. An extreme social agenda was jammed through the process, which prioritized unions over families who care for their disabled loved ones, criminalized law-abiding gun owners, and trampled over the sanctity of new human life. Here are some examples:
Forced unionization of home care workers
Democrats pushed a bill to circumvent a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said individual home care providers cannot be forced to be a union member. Senate Bill 6199, relating to in-home caregivers, gets around the court's ruling by allowing the Department of Social and Health Services to contract out for provider wages to a third-party entity. In this case, that entity happens to be the Democrats' political ally, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
On the floor, Republicans tried to read emails from in-home care workers, many of whom are caring for an elderly or disabled family member, who objected to being forced to use a large percentage of their small state stipend to go to union dues. However, we were repeatedly gaveled down by the Democratic House Speaker. When the bill came to a vote, Republicans decided to object as strongly as we could — by refusing to vote. The vote was 50 yeas, 0 nays, 48 not voting. No one remembers that ever happening in the state Legislature. Unfortunately, the bill is expected to be signed tomorrow (March 27) by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Legalizing the purchase of human babies
In my last email update, I voiced strong concern about a measure that passed the House around 1 a.m., Feb. 28 that legalizes the purchase and sale of human babies. Senate Bill 6037, “The Uniform Parentage Act,” allows women to be paid to serve as surrogate mothers. In other words, under this bill, women can be turned into paid baby manufacturers. What was once done out of altruistic giving, love, compassion and caring now turns into a financial transaction. I voted “no” to protect the womb from being monetized and commercialized. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Inslee on March 6.
- Click here to listen to my floor speech on Senate Bill 6037
- Listen to my KTTH radio interview on the Todd Herman Show
Other ugly bills. . .
Abortion mandate – Senate Bill 6219 requires any health plan that covers maternity services to cover abortions. This was signed into law earlier this week. I voted NO! (Watch my floor speech.)
Bump stock ban – Senate Bill 5992 bans the manufacture, sale, AND POSSESSION of bump-fire stocks. If you own a bump-stock device, this bill, which has been signed into law, essentially makes you a criminal. I understand the concern following the Las Vegas shooting. However, it is not the weapon we need to address, but the evil doer behind it. There are plenty of law-abiding citizens, some of whom are disabled, who legitimately use bump-fire stocks. I voted NO! (Watch my floor speech.)
New chapter in my life
As you may have heard, I will finish out my term in office through the end of the year, but I will not seek re-election as your 18th District state representative.
Looking back on a decade of public service, I want to thank the citizens of Camas and the residents of the 18th Legislative District for putting their trust in me. Serving the people in elected office has been one of the highest honors of my life.
I've been blessed with an army of enthusiastic supporters and dear friends who have stood with me. I've also been fortunate to be paired with a wonderful staff, including my legislative assistant Richelle MacKersie, my public information officer John Sattgast, and my 2018 intern William Martin. Without this team and the other support staff in the Legislature, I could not have done the job you sent me here to do.
I've stayed true to my word. I have kept the promises I made to the people who elected me. I've worked very hard and I did the very best I could to solve serious challenges facing our region and state. There is more work to be done by new, courageous leaders with conviction to stand up for the people.
I look forward to serving you through the end of the year. Thank you for your kindness and understanding.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"
469 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7812 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000