Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Washington State Legislature has convened for the 2022 legislative session, starting the countdown on a short, but intense, 60-days of work. For the House of Representatives, at least for the first few weeks of session, that means another fully virtual format, like last year.
By and large, at least for now, the Capitol will be closed to the public. No entry to the House galleries will be permitted to the public; rendering them unable to observe, in-person, any floor debates. Members of the press, however, unlike the public, will be allowed in the galleries if they show proof of vaccination.
Both the Senate and House will rely heavily on Zoom to conduct meetings. Committee hearings will be held virtually, and constituents allowed to testify remotely. For members and staff, admittance to the floor will not only require proof of vaccination, but also a booster. Lawmakers and staff will also be required to get tested for COVID three times per week in order to work in their legislative offices.
It's no secret that I've been a big supporter of more in-person work at the Legislature. Fully online, virtual sessions are far from ideal. Online committee hearings and floor sessions cut the public out of large swaths of the discussion and debate on public policy that affects their daily lives, families, and communities. It also hinders the collaborative work lawmakers must do with their legislative colleagues and the public in order to make tough decisions on bills and policy.
There is hope, however, of giving the public more in-person access in the weeks to come. The current House operations plan — although challenging — is not wholly inflexible. Both the House and Senate will review their floor and session operation guidelines throughout the session and, possibly, make modifications.
With ongoing concerns about the pandemic in mind, I plan to support prudent and healthy ways to return to more in-person work and normalcy at the state Capitol. For now, I am working out of my Olympia office. I encourage you to reach out to me with your comments, questions, or concerns on bills before the Legislature.
Legislative update video
Last week, I recorded a video update in which I discussed a number of legislative topics, including reining in the governor's emergency powers. You can watch it by clicking here or below.
Emergency Powers Reform | House Bill 1772
One of the biggest policy debates this session will be about reforming the governor's emergency powers. Washington is one of only four states in the nation that hands over unilateral authority to the governor to declare and maintain a state of emergency (SOE). During a prolonged SOE, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislative branch, which represents the voice of the people, has an extremely limited role in determining the policies set forth by the executive branch in Washington state.
That needs to change. That's why I sponsored House Bill 1772. While I recognize that confronting immediate emergencies often requires leadership from the executive branch, long-lasting emergencies — like the pandemic — require more legislative oversight. For nearly two years now, we've experienced prolonged, unilateral authority by only one person, the governor. That is not how our state government was designed to run, nor is it how it should be run. In the weeks to come, I'll be pushing for this common-sense change.
Want to learn more? Here are some resources:
- What are House Republicans doing to reform the governor's emergency powers?
- Radio Report: Corry bill seeks to rein in governor's emergency powers, add legislative involvement
- Rep. Corry talks with KVI's Ari Hoffman about emergency powers reform
- WA Legislature considers limits on Gov. Inslee's emergency powers (KCPQ TV)
Other important public policy debates in 2022
In the coming weeks, legislators will be working on some of the toughest public policy issues our state has faced in years. Here's a quick rundown of some of the big debates heading our way:
- Reforming the anti-law enforcement “reforms” put in place last session by the majority party: Violent gang and drug-related crimes, human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault are all on the rise. Our communities are less safe. Among other problems, the bills approved in 2021 prevented law enforcement from pursuing suspects and assisting with mental health calls. That needs to change. Learn more here.
- Repeal of the Long-Term Care Act: The Legislature needs to be honest with the people it represents. This program is a major policy mistake. At this point, it needs to be repealed. Changes to the program will only cost more for taxpayers and those unable to opt-out. Learn more here.
- Budget surplus of $8.8 billion + $2.2 billion in reserves + $1.2 billion in unspent federal stimulus: Despite the continued toll of the pandemic, most sectors of Washington's economy are thriving. State revenue growth is the second strongest in the country and tax collections have doubled since their pre-Great Recession peak. While many individuals and families continue to struggle, the government remains flush in cash. Tax relief is needed.
- Approving the work completed by the Washington State Redistricting Commission: Although the commission missed its deadline, the Washington State Supreme Court approved its bipartisan consensus on political district-making. The Legislature now has 30 days to review the maps and approve or disapprove the commission's proposals for congressional and legislative district maps for the coming decade.
Getting involved in the Legislative process
Meeting remotely has its challenges, but it doesn't mean you can't get involved. Every legislative committee will be offering remote testimony options. From the comfort of your home, you can testify online via Zoom, by phone, or submit written comments.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
Here's an additional list of resources to keep you informed about the activities of the Legislature:
- Read or sign up for the Capitol Buzz or the Ledger, a legislative news aggregator
- Watch TVW Coverage of House Sessions
- Watch TVW Coverage of Senate Sessions
- Testify in a committee (Virtually)
- Share your opinion on a bill
- Find ADA accommodation and information
Want to learn how to track a specific bill? Here are some resources that can help:
- Go to leg.wa.gov
- On the left-hand panel, click “Bill Information.”
- If you know the bill number, enter it in the search field and hit enter.
- Don't have a bill number? Under the section “Standard Reports,” you'll find alternative tracking tools. You can search based on topic, legislative digests, cross-references, and within a specific biennium.
- If you click on the House Floor Activity Report, this helpful tool gives you a detailed list of all bills scheduled to be heard on the House floor each day.
Stay in touch!
Please remember that your input in the legislative process matters. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about legislation, committee hearings, or the legislative process — I encourage you to call, write or email me. I'm happy to help.
Thank you for your steadfast support and encouragement.