Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It has been an interesting couple weeks since I last sent you an update. I will get into more detail momentarily, but first I want to invite you to an event hosted by the Washington Policy Center (WPC). The Wake-Up Wenatchee Forum breakfast event will include a legislative panel featuring me and another special guest. It will be held (tomorrow) Wednesday, Feb. 20 from 7:00 – 8:00 a.m. at the Wenatchee Banner Bank, 501 North Mission Street. Please RSVP as soon as you can for this hosted special breakfast event to Chris Cargill at email@example.com or 509-570-238.
The discussion this session is finally turning to jobs and the economy. We are looking to build on the workers' compensation reforms passed in 2011. The Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate has already passed two bills, with bipartisan support, to help further our workers' compensation reforms. However, our new governor is already criticizing the reforms and calling them a step backward. You can read that here.
Senate Bill 5127 would remove the 55 year-old age limit on structured settlements and open it up to injured workers 40 years-old and older. No other states that have structured settlement agreements have an age limit. The other bill, Senate Bill 5128, would help streamline the program in keeping with legislation that was passed in 2011.
It is important to clarify a couple points because there is a lot of misinformation from the opponents of the bills. First, it does not reduce benefits. Second, the structured settlements are “voluntary” and nothing new is being proposed. We are simply building on the reforms two years ago, to achieve the savings we had originally anticipated. I would add that part of the reason for the lower savings is that the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA) has taken it upon themselves to decide what is best of the injured worker and has only approved 27 out of 386 settlement agreements, or approximately 7 percent.
House Bill 1440 – Assault on independent contractors
This bill would be the most dramatic shift in employer-employee relationships we have ever seen. This legislation basically criminalizes employers hiring independent contractors. This legislation would establish criteria so when employers cease to employ someone they would be at risk of penalties from an oversight task force with the Employment Security Department. It is a guilty until proven innocent mentality that is unacceptable. It will create an unlevel playing field for employers who believe they are complying with current employment law and it will increase underground economy activity.
Training wage bill update
It appears at this point a lot of young people will continue to be unemployed. We offered to make the training wage bills (House Bill 1150 and Senate Bill 5275) for 17-19 year-olds to prove it would work. Unfortunately, the propaganda from our opposition is keeping us from trying to reduce our high youth unemployment. Not one single editorial I have seen, even though they have been supportive of the bill, understand how the proposed legislation works. I look forward to providing more clarification on this issue in the near future. I am also hopeful the Senate gets this bill through its chamber to keep the issue moving this session.
I-502 – legalizing marijuana update
There is a lot of discussion about implementing Initiative 502, which passed with more than 55 percent of the vote in November. You can find a fact sheet on it here. A number of questions remain, particularly on the law enforcement side of things. The Washington State Liquor Control Board is holding public forums on I-502. They have held a few forums and still have three remaining. Click here to learn more about the events and locations.
You think all that talk about black helicopters is crazy? Those people were just ahead of their time. This could be the single biggest infringement of privacy ever.
There will be public hearings this week on companion bills House Bill 1771 and Senate Bill 5782 that would outline regulations of unmanned drones by state and local officials. This comes just two weeks after Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn grounded the Seattle Police Department's unmanned drone program. The department previously said it would use drones to provide an overhead view of large crime scenes, serious accidents, disasters, and search and rescue operations. I have signed on as a co-sponsor to the House bill. Both bills have bipartisan support.
School safety and firearms update
As I mentioned in my previous e-mail update, we have seen a large amount of legislation related to school safety and firearms legislation. As we approach the policy committee cutoff date, it is still difficult to predict which bills will be moving forward and which ones are not going anywhere this session. I am still committed to opposing anything that may infringe upon our Second Amendment rights. One bill I have co-sponsored is the Washington State Firearms Freedom Act of 2013 – House Bill 1371. The bill states the federal government would have no jurisdiction over firearms and ammunition that are produced or remain in Washington state and during any state of emergency, neither the governor nor any government may impose any restrictions on firearms or ammunition.
The Freedom Agenda
A number of my colleagues and I are pushing many bills that would lower taxes, lessen government and protect or provide you more freedoms. A number of bills have received public hearings and some are moving through the process. In my next e-mail update I will give you an overview of some of the legislation we are supporting and an updated status report on those bills and others we are working to defeat.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.