Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Washington lawmakers have been doing work remotely for most of the 2021 session. That makes the tough job of analyzing and vetting legislation, even tougher. For the past several weeks I've been sitting in front of my computer screen for long hours, talking on the phone, taking part in virtual meetings, and looking for ways to support good policy in what previously was done in face-to-face meetings.
Remote-control legislating not only influences the nature and quality of the bills being considered, it severely limits my time with the most valuable resource I have as a lawmaker: you. I don't get the same amount of quality time with constituents, listening to your comments on public policy and bills that I've had in previous sessions.
That's why I'm hosting, along with my seatmate Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, a virtual town hall on Wednesday, March 17 starting at 6 p.m. Town halls are a great way to cut through the rhetoric and talk about what's really important to our district. Several controversial bills are being debated and, ultimately, decided in Olympia this year. Mosbrucker and I will discuss those proposals in detail during the hour-long event.
14th District residents that would like to take part should register early. The webinar-style meeting can only accommodate the first 500 attendees.
Compensating ranchers and farmers for the early termination of their land leases | House Bill 1199
I'm excited to announce that one of my bills was unanimously approved by the House recently. House Bill 1199 seeks to reimburse ranchers and farmers for some of their financial losses when their state-owned land leases are terminated early.
Some ranching and farming families have worked on state-owned lands for generations. When their land-leases are terminated, they can face tremendous financial uncertainty. On the other side of the coin, because the revenue generated from state trust lands provides funding for K-12 school construction and other important projects, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and ultimately the citizens of the state, have an interest in leasing the land for the maximum amount of money possible. That's why, according to state law, DNR can use a non-default termination to replace a lessee with a higher-revenue tenant.
Finding a solution to this problem hasn't been easy. But I can say without reservation, that without DNR and several of our region's farmers and ranchers working together, this bill never would have made it to the Legislature. It's a terrific example of what can happen when citizens and state agencies—in this case, DNR, work collaboratively to find a solution. The resulting proposal does an outstanding job balancing both land lessees and state interests in the land.
The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
House Republicans | 2021-23 operating budget framework
In odd-numbered years, like 2021, the primary task of legislators is to develop and pass a two-year budget that funds the operations of the state. Back in December, the governor proposed a budget plan that relies heavily on several new taxes. Why? We don't need the additional tax revenue.
As I pointed out in a previous email update, despite some losses at the start of the pandemic, state tax revenue has remained remarkably resilient. Washington's steadily growing revenue numbers mean we can balance the state's budget with no tax increases or deep cuts to state-provided services.
That's why I'm proud to be a part of the House Republican team that produced the framework for the 2021-23 operating budget that includes several benefits, but no new taxes. The proposed budget contains funding for schools to help students who have fallen behind academically, a tax credit for working families, and tax relief for restaurants and other hard-hit businesses.
In fact, the proposal has more than $6 billion in savings, most of which were recommended by state agencies as a part of their budget evaluation exercise last year. It replenishes the state's unemployment insurance trust fund and offers temporary B&O tax relief for businesses hit hardest by the pandemic, and invests more in public health. Yet no vital services are affected and no new taxes are needed.
Take a look at some highlights below:
Learn more about the House Republican budget from these links:
Staying involved during the virtual session
If you need any help navigating the virtual session, I've listed several resources on my website here. You can watch live committee and floor action on TVW here, listen to my radio interviews about session activities here, or watch my recent legislative update video here.
For the next several weeks, I will spend most of my time debating and voting on bills that have passed out of their respective committees to the House floor. That makes it a critical time for me to hear from you. If you have comments or concerns about a bill, contact me.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the state House of Representatives. My office is here to help.