Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the last day of the 2022 legislative session. Before I begin this update on what's been happening in Olympia, I'd like to share that my thoughts and prayers are with the Ukraine.
Just a few days ago, Washington State House Republicans introduced House Joint Memorial 4003, which supports Congressional efforts to restrict all future purchases of petroleum and other hydrocarbons from Russia.
Another Republican-sponsored resolution, House Resolution 4660, recognizes the contributions of Ukrainians to Washington state. And finally, House bill 2135 would require all state agencies in Washington state to cancel their outstanding contracts with Russian companies and the State Investment Board to divest from pension and other investments. As it states in the proposal:
“Russia has engaged in an unjustified and unprovoked invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine, in violation of international law. Washington stands firmly in support of Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity and denounces Russia's military actions against Ukraine.”
Emergency Powers Reform
It's incredibly disappointing that after more than two years of living under emergency orders from the governor, the majority party refused to pass any meaningful emergency powers reform. Last week, Senate Bill 5909 officially died in the House. The bill, which proposed a very watered-down version of reform, did not go far enough in allowing the Legislature a voice during a long-lasting emergency.
You may recall that I sponsored a stronger measure, House Bill 1772, at the start of the legislative session. My bill was given a public hearing but did not proceed any further.
The majority party brought Senate Bill 5909 to the floor for a vote at 1 a.m. on March 4. House Republicans were ready with several amendments to strengthen the bill, including one I sponsored that would add a requirement for the Legislature to modify, end, or extend a state of emergency after 60 days and align legislative approval of prohibited activities.
After less than thirty minutes of debate, the majority party pulled the bill before considering the amendments.
Having monitored this policy closely for the past several months, I remain dumbfounded as to why the majority party remains content to cede its legislative oversight to the governor. It is important that people have a say in ongoing states of emergency. This isn't about the current emergency orders. It is about addressing an imbalance in our state's governance.
Watch my latest legislative update video on this and other end-of-session topics by clicking below:
Democratic-sponsored transportation package
Senate Bills 5974 and 5975 are related to the Democrats' Move Ahead Washington transportation proposal. Both bills passed the House despite a lengthy floor debate. I voted “no” on this 16-year, $16.8 billion, which stirred up quite a bit of controversy because it contained a six-cent-per-gallon tax on exported fuel.
With growing pressure from our neighboring states, the majority party passed an amendment that removed that proposal. However, they traded one bad idea for another by replacing it with a more than $100 million transfer from the state's Public Works Assistance Account.
The revolving Public Works account provides low- and no-interest loans to cities and counties to pay for infrastructure vital to public health and safety. It helps fund local projects such as water, sewer, and broadband, so communities can build housing and create economic opportunities.
Raiding this funding shifts the costs of the transportation package to local communities. This will decrease economic opportunities and increase fees and rates on services like water and utilities, among others. This is a bad idea.
Republicans offered several options, but none of them were considered. Read more about our proposals here.
2022-23 Supplemental Capital Budget
Lawmakers in the state House gave unanimous approval Tuesday, March 8, to a statewide 2022-23 supplemental capital budget that invests in communities and creates jobs. The plan spends $1.5 billion, with $107.3 million from the sale of general obligation bonds.
Unlike the operating and transportation budgets this year, the capital budget was a bipartisan effort.
Projects totaling more than $7.6 million were approved for the 14th District, including:
- Comprehensive Health Care – Goldendale Facility (Goldendale): $1.03 million
- Martin Luther King Jr. Park Community Pool (Yakima): $1 million
- Klickitat County Animal Shelter (Goldendale): $670,000
- Naches Rearing Pond (Naches): $50,000
- Town of Naches Mobile Stage (Naches): $250,000
- YVT Bucket Truck (Yakima): $70,000
- Northwest Harvest (Yakima): $3.2 million
- Yakima County Fire District 12 (Yakima): $10,000
- Klickitat WLA – Simcoe Fencing: $450,000
- Rock Creek Bridge Replacement: $400,000
- Steep Creek Bridge Replacement: $400,000
- YR-26 Jones Bridge Replacement: $150,000
Capital Gains Income Tax Ruled Unconstitutional
When the majority party proposed and approved the capital gains income tax in 2021, House Republicans argued it was unconstitutional. Last week, a Douglas County Superior Court judge agreed. In Judge Brian C. Huber's ruling, he rejected the state's argument that the capital gains tax is an excise tax. Instead, he said the tax is “properly characterized as an income tax” pursuant to applicable Washington case law.
“As a tax on the receipt of income, ESSB 5096 is also properly characterized as a tax on property pursuant to that same case law,” Huber wrote. “This Court concludes that ESSB 5096 violates the uniformity and limitation requirements of Article VII, sections 1 and 2 of the Washington State Constitution.”
This issue is not settled though. Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his office would appeal. Democrats have fought hard for new tax increases, including the long-term care insurance payroll tax, and are standing by them. You can find a list of these bills here.
Stay in touch!
I'll be sending another update in the next couple of weeks with more highlights from this year's legislative session. In the meantime, if you have any questions, concerns, or comments about state government-related matters, please contact me.
It's an honor to serve you!