Dear Friends and Neighbors,
For most people, the week of Thanksgiving means family, friends, and a delicious turkey dinner. But for state government, it also signals the countdown to the start of the upcoming legislative session.
The 2022 session begins on January 10. In the state's biennium work cycle, even-numbered years are called “short” because the session only runs 60-days. In my experience, the eight or so weeks of legislative work may be brief, but it's also intense.
To prepare, last week lawmakers from around the state met virtually for Committee Assembly Days, holding work sessions and planning for the months ahead. During those hearings, lawmakers and staff shared previews on policy issues that we are likely to hear more about come January.
Prefiling of bills starts shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday on Dec. 6, 2021. Bills prepared before the regular session begins can be submitted at that time. This helps committees organize their agendas prior to the first week of regular legislative work. Prefiled bills are then “officially” introduced on the first day of session.
After Dec. 6, if you would like to review any prefiled bills you can do so by clicking here.
Washington State House operations for 2022 session
On Thursday, Nov. 18, the House announced that during the 2022 session only a limited number of legislators will be allowed in the House chambers, and only if they are vaccinated. To access their on-campus offices, unvaccinated House members will need to submit to a minimum of three COVID-19 tests per week.
Prior to the release of the House operations information, the Senate posted their 2022 plans. The Senate will work under a hybrid system, meeting both remotely and in-person. Under the Senate's guidelines, legislators and support staff will be allowed in the Senate chambers, regardless of vaccination status, but will be required to submit to daily COVID-19 testing.
Members of the public who would like to watch the legislative proceedings from the Senate or House galleries will be allowed to do so, but only in limited numbers. In the House, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours will be required.
Governor adopts federal workplace vaccine criteria
Despite rumors to the contrary, last week in Olympia the governor announced he will follow the president's private employer COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which has been temporarily stayed by the courts. The governor said that although he is waiting on the court's decision, for now, the state will follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) criteria, except where it is necessary to make adjustments for Washington state laws.
This was surprising, considering the governor's vaccine mandate for most state workers is among the harshest in the nation. The president's OSHA vaccine regulations require companies with 100 or more employees to require workers to be vaccinated or submit to COVID-19 testing. Similar to the governor's state agency vaccine mandate, workers who refuse to get vaccinated risk losing their jobs — with one key difference. Unlike the governor's mandate on state agencies, the Biden/OSHA requirement allows employees to be tested for COVID in lieu of receiving the vaccine.
You can watch the governor's press conference by clicking here.
I've received several phone calls and emails about redistricting. In a once-every-ten-years exercise, shortly after the federal government publishes an updated census, the bipartisan Washington State Redistricting Commission redraws the state's congressional and legislative district maps.
Unfortunately, the commission has failed to meet the state's official Nov. 15 deadline.
This is the first time the commission has failed to complete their work on time, since being created shortly after the 1990 census. According to state law, the Supreme Court now has until April 30 to do the job. The maps the court adopts will be used for elections from 2022 through 2031. In a recent statement, Commission Chair Sarah Augustine urged the court to consider the maps already developed by the commission:
“These maps reflect the input of the thousands of people who took part in the process with us. It would be a shame to see these maps go unconsidered simply because the clock struck 12.”
For more information on redistricting, and its potential impact on the 14th District, here are some news articles and links to information:
- In a first, court will decide new WA redistricting plan as commission falters (Crosscut)
- Washington's redistricting commission emerges Tuesday night, post-deadline, with agreement on boundaries. What's next? (Seattle Times)
- Redistricting Q&A: How changes to city, county and state maps might affect the Yakima Valley (The Yakima Herald)
- New voting map puts Selah and Naches into new districts; keeps Yakama Reservation together (The Yakima Herald)
- To view the final commission-approved maps, click here.
Working for you!
During the past several months, numerous people have reached out to me about some of the unforeseen and difficult challenges caused by the pandemic. Along with worries about vaccine mandates, masks in schools, and social contact restrictions, many people are worried about some of the major policy changes approved during the 2021 session.
Some of those concerns include the new long-term care payroll tax, reforming the governor's emergency powers, the push to shut down the Snake River dams, and other changes that affect the cost of living for Washington residents, including significantly higher fuel costs. I've also received several calls, emails, and texts on the negative impact a group of police reform bills approved last year continues to have on law enforcement across the state.
In order to give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of the work being done on these topics, I'm including the following list of links below. As always, if you have any questions or comments on these or other state government-related matters, call me. I'm always happy to hear from you.
Take a look:
- What's being done to reform the governor's emergency powers?
- Republican letters to Gov. Jay Inslee
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and resources
Public policy issues:
- Why police reform bills have made communities less safe
- New long-term care insurance program and payroll tax, including our efforts to repeal this tax and FAQs
- Regressive policies will create more pain at the pump for Washingtonians
- Why breaching our dams would do more harm than good | Salmon and hydroelectric power can co-exist
- New tax increases | 2019-21
With the upcoming 2022 legislative session just around the corner, it's more important than ever for people to get involved. If you'd like information on how you can be a well-equipped citizen advocate, here are a few resources to get you started:
- Learn about the process online at the Legislative Overview page;
- Read about How a Bill Becomes a Law, and How to Read a Bill;
- Use the member rosters to get legislative contact information to send emails, or write letters;
- Call the toll-free Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to leave a message on any issue;
- Make your views known by testifying before a committee on an issue or bill;
- Watch and listen to committee hearings live on TVW;
- Need more information on how the Legislature works? Call the Legislative Information Center at (360) 786-7573.
- Visit the Washington State House Republicans website;
- Sign up for The Capitol Buzz, a weekday summary of online news stories from across the state, highlighting policies, politics and other issues that affect Washingtonians; and/or
- Review top Republican headlines on The Ledger.
Because of certain state restrictions, I will not be sending another email update until the second week of January. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns about state government-related matters, please contact my office.
I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Olympia.